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Roads Less Traveled Take St. Norbert Alums to New Graduate School Options

As recent graduates move on to graduate school, some of them are finding different ways to experience this next chapter in their education.

Ashley Stern ’14, for one, isn’t quite ready to give up the classroom experience. But that doesn’t mean her graduate program has to be on a campus similar to St. Norbert – or even on the same continent. Stern finds herself at Edinburgh Napier University in Edinburgh, Scotland, this fall. She is studying for her Master of Arts in Creative Writing. 

Alexis Redig ’14 chose to continue her education on one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States but, even so, her unique grad school program means she spends most of her time elsewhere.

And Keri Hodnik ’13 is looking at an innovative solution to funding her own path to graduate school – a path that will take her to London, England.

Across the pond
Ashley Stern's one-year program in Edinburgh focuses on training aspiring writers for professional careers in everything from screenwriting to several types of creative fiction. Professors help develop narrative technique, vocational skills and cultural context in the first two trimesters. The final trimester is reserved for working on a creative piece of about 20,000 words.

After receiving the first set of assignments mid-August, Stern’s latest adventure is now reality. 

“I’m getting excited about moving to a new country,” Stern said when we spoke to her ahead of her departure last month. “I am nervous, but confident that the education I received at St. Norbert has prepared me for what’s to come.”

She acknowledges that she’s a victim of the travel bug, picked up during her junior-year study abroad experience at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy.

Her life after receiving her degree isn’t set, but Stern, who has a bachelor’s degree in English, hopes to author novels or write for television. But, she says, “My biggest worry right now is trying to fit a year’s worth of stuff into one suitcase.” 

Off-campus and at Notre Dame
Like Stern, Alexis Redig chose to continue her education as a graduate student, but her unique program at Notre Dame rarely puts her in the classroom – or even on campus. 

Echo is a two-year graduate program that combines on-campus studies, full-time parish employment and spiritual formation through an intentional-living community. Graduate students attend classes from June through July and are then sent to their ministry placement for the next year.

“After looking into Echo at the start of my senior year, and praying about where I was being called, it seemed like the perfect next step,” Redig says. “With full-time work in a parish, I will be exposed to different ministries, and given a helpful environment to discern my talents.”

Redig, who has a bachelor’s degree in religious studies, is serving at Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon, Fla., which has 6,000 families registered and provides more than 100 ministries. For her first year, she will focus on confirmation and faith-formation programs, and RCIA for children.

“As of right now, I am not sure where I will be going post-Echo, but I am excited to see what God puts in my life these next two years to solidify whom and where I am being most called to serve.”

A sterling approach to financial aid
Prospective grad students across the country are not just looking for alternative programs; they’re finding creative ways to fund their journeys, too.

Keri Hodnik picked up this national trend when she used a crowd-funding website, YouCaring, to launch a personal giving campaign. She now looks to family, friends and the wider community to help achieve her goal of obtaining an M.B.A. in England.

After living in London as a study-abroad student, Hodnik decided to return to London this fall for a master’s program at the American International University of Richmond.

“I’ve always known that an M.B.A. would be a part of my future, but I chose London because it is one of the world’s greatest financial centers, that facilitates commerce from every corner of the world,” Hodnik says. “I am most looking forward to the international edge that this program offers. Not only do the faculty come from all over the world, but the student base is made up of over 100 nationalities.”

She knows that the experience will be a challenge, but understands it will help her grow and apply her business knowledge on a whole other level. 

Fascinated by entrepreneurship, Hodnik then hopes to develop the necessary skills and talents during her time abroad to run her own company someday.

Oct. 7, 2014