Just as a well-written adventure novel is full of unexpected plot twists, so too has Leslie Kayser’s educational journey abounded with unanticipated discoveries. Kayser, an ambitious and vivacious woman, is a perfect example of a not-eighteen-year-old college student. She had always wanted to go to college, but life circumstances left her no time to pursue her academic dreams. In 2001, while she was working for the Craig School District, her supervisor, Bob Wicker, encouraged her to take some computer classes. Kayser thought, “Well… computers are good, and I need to know about them.” Although she admits that they were not exactly her passion, she was smart enough to realize that computer skills would likely be advantageous to any future career goals. Eric Hummel, a faculty member of the University of Alaska Southeast in Ketchikan, suggested she begin by taking CISCO Networking classes. She registered for those first courses, not knowing that she was embarking on a six-year-long odyssey. Today, Kayser is the Tourism Marketing Coordinator for the Ketchikan Visitor’s Bureau, and also a recent magna cum laude graduate of UAS-Ketchikan.
In the beginning of her college career, Kayser was a part-time student, and one of her required classes was Rod Landis’s English 211. That semester, she realized writing was her hidden gift. Kayser remembers, “One day, Rod asked to see me after class. He said to me, ‘You’re really good at this.’ His encouragement made me think that, yeah, I could do this. Maybe I want to do this… I want to write stories like Flannery O’Connor. I want to leave words that are powerful, that shake you, even after fifty years.” Currently, Kayser uses her writing skills, along with her computer knowledge, to market Ketchikan to the entire West Coast. To her amazement, she unearthed a strong talent, and now is able to use it in her everyday tasks.
Kayser believed that her education would lead straight into a related career. She says “I thought there would be a direct path. There hasn’t been. My educational journey has been a circuitous and enjoyable learning process. Before, I had the idea that success was purely academic success…getting a good grade in a class… but then, during a communications class [speech class] I had a novel thought…. I realized that success was more about enjoying the process of learning and discovery, instead of seeking perfection.” Although her initial predictions were slightly amiss, she has clearly benefited by accepting the unexpected.
Kayser was not only encouraged by her friends and the faculty at UAS, but inspired by them too. She says, “The faculty and the professors are all a part of our community. I saw that Rod Landis was seeking his third Master’s degree. He was continuing his own education. That was encouraging to me. Everyone kept telling me to keep taking the next step.” Her goals were important not only to her, but to her college family. Kayser is quick to acknowledge the many people who have encouraged her and who have been positive role models for her, but she too is an admirable example, especially for her five children. Kayser managed to complete both her Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Liberal Arts degrees while raising a family.
Kayser asserts, “There is no shame in ignorance, but there is shame in staying ignorant. The beauty of education is this: if you don’t know something, you can find it out. College has empowered me; given me lots of confidence…. I am not afraid to launch out.” Kayser has wisely used our local UAS campus to obtain valuable job skills, to gain new knowledge, and to find her passion.
InFocus Piece written by Dawn Rauwolf