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Kaitlyn Watkins
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

Kaitlyn Watkins

Graduation year: 2021

High school: Mundelein High School

Hometown: Mundelein, Ill.

Majors: Political science, communication studies, multimedia journalism and mass communication

Activities: Student Government Association (SGA), Title IX Student Advisory Committee, Sigma Pi Delta sorority, Bystander Intervention Peer Education Program, Pi Sigma Alpha (political science)

Internships: Municipal intern for the Village of Wauconda (summer 2019); brand ambassador and marketing intern with the non-profit For Well Being (summer 2020)

Post-grad plans: I will be attending law school.

Why Augustana?

When I first visited Augustana, I was convinced I didn’t want to go here. But as the May 1st decision date got closer (and still with no idea where I wanted to go), my parents convinced me to visit again. On that visit, I absolutely fell in love. The campus was beautiful, the academics were rigorous, and the community was vibrant. I felt that each person I interacted with genuinely cared about my goals, my passions and wanted to see me succeed. I knew in my heart that this was the place for me.

Are you where you thought you'd be when you first came to campus?

Not at all! As a first-generation college student, I came to Augie not knowing what to expect. I had no idea what to major in, what career I was interested in or even what classes to take. What guided me through my time here were the students, faculty and administrative mentors who inspired me to pursue new opportunities. Many of these opportunities were things I would have never considered without their encouragement. As a result, I learned and grew in ways that I never expected.

Who helped you get to where you are now?

Everyone at Augie has shaped me into who I am today, but here are a few to highlight. Every professor I’ve had exposed me to ideas that I will hold with me for the rest of my life.

Especially Dr. Magalhães, Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Yaschur, who saw my passion for political science and mass communication before I saw it in myself. Also, Dr. Normoyle and Professor McDowell for giving meaning to the liberal arts and teaching me that learning is a lifelong journey.

Also, leaders across campus (student, faculty and administrative) who believed in me and gave me confidence to be a leader myself. I have so much gratitude for Dr. Schultz, an incredible mentor and role model; Dean Brooks, who has supported me in many challenging leadership experiences; and President Bahls, who encouraged me to ask good questions and inspired me to attend law school.

Finally, my parents, who gave me an opportunity they didn’t have: going to college. I will never be able to thank them enough for their unconditional support.

Peak experience?

Serving as president of SGA has been an incredible honor and an experience I will never forget. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve as an advocate for my peers and am thankful for every lesson I’ve learned along the way.

This organization has taught me so much about empathy, caring for others, and what it really means to be a leader. Most importantly, SGA has helped me find my life’s passion of making a difference in the world by helping, supporting and advocating for others.

What surprised you?

My own resilience. The most influential learning experiences I’ve had in college came from some of the hardest challenges I faced. Looking back, I’m surprised by my ability to overcome those challenges and the support Augie gave me to turn those challenges into learning opportunities. These experiences reminded me that we are all capable of more than we realize.

How did you use your Augie Choice?

I used my Augie Choice to study abroad in Brazil during J-term of 2020! Dr. Mariano Magalhães and Dr. Monica Smith took 14 of us to study the Afro-Brazilian experience in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, Bahia. The experience was life-changing.

What will you miss the most?

The people. I’ll miss always having a friend to do homework (or procrastinate) with in the Fishbowl, coming home to my goofy roommates, sitting in meetings with some of the most impressive leaders on campus, catching up with professors on the Quad, impromptu coffee runs with friends, late-night shenanigans, and so much more.

The community here is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Without a doubt, I know that these relationships will last a lifetime, and for that I am so grateful.

Advice for the Class of 2025?

Cherish every second of the four years that lie ahead of you. It sounds cliché, but it goes by fast. So, cherish the best days, the regular days and even the challenging ones, because someday you’ll wish that you could go back and live it all over again.

"As SGA president, Kaitlyn’s strong leadership abilities are well-known at Augustana. Despite the uncertainty of the pandemic, she has led the student body with a calm steadiness. Kaitlyn is humble, genuine and offers honest and intelligent insights, whether she's in class, addressing her peers or meeting with deans or the college president. She’s not afraid to ask the right but sometimes difficult questions to move the campus in a direction befitting Augustana's values. Kaitlyn will undoubtedly have continued success and make a positive impact in law school and beyond."

– Dr. Carolyn Yaschur, associate professor, multimedia journalism and mass communication