SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: MSU ‘clicks’ for Schmidt after study abroad experience

MINOT, N.D. – Emily Schmidt started to focus 9,000 miles from home.

After three nondescript semesters, self-described as “floating,” Schmidt traveled to Melbourne, Australia as part of the Minot State University study abroad program.

It was the start of a personal and educational awaking.

“I hadn’t really done anything big like that, I hadn’t experienced much outside North Dakota,” Schmidt, a Mandan native, said. “The first three semesters at MSU, I didn’t do much besides school. I was in bed every night by 10!

“But doing the study abroad program helped me take charge of my world. It elevated my experience beyond what I was used to, experience something other than North Dakota culture. Minot State just clicked after Australia.”

Nearly everything changed for Schmidt including how they approached a love of writing. What didn’t change was the location of school.  Before leaving for Australia, Schmidt contemplated transferring to North Dakota State University, going as far as filling out the application.

Once back at Minot State, their newfound confidence, and a new perspective on life inside and outside of the classroom, ended thoughts of transferring.

“It wasn’t like I didn’t like it at MSU, but those first three semesters really weren’t working out,” they said. “But after getting back, I got a job in University Communications, and I was taking higher level courses in my major and I realized I really liked the educational opportunities here. After that, I couldn’t think of leaving.”

The coursework in their upper-level English degree, along with adding a music minor and concentrations in French, sociology, gender studies, and honors, were the fuel for their education. But it was taking a new approach to English and writing that advanced that passion.

“I started working for University Communications, which is a completely different approach to writing. And, I took a class with my advisor Sarah Aleshire (assistant professor in English), literary criticism, and that really changed how I thought about the whole field,” Schmidt said. “I started to figure out English for myself instead of what everyone else said.

“Perhaps the people around me wish I wouldn’t have taken that class, but the concepts I learned changed my approach. We read the essay ‘The Death of the Author’ by Roland Barthes, and in that, he says when the author writes something and puts it out in the world, the meaning is out of their control — the author is dead. I felt like we hadn’t learned it that way before, we were looking for the answer to a puzzle instead of finding meaning.”

Schmidt continues to push past the basics in their education including launching a podcast about country music that started as a personal journalism project. Prior to the project, they had little interest in country music and no experience in podcasts or video production.

“We had to choose something, learn it, and document the process. One part was character development, and the character was myself, so I decided to choose something I was not aware of, didn’t know anything about, and maybe even would push back,” they said. “It was both funny and interesting to me. I was able to explore a lot of aspects of what makes country music sound like country music, working with Dr. Young (Charlie Young, assistant professor of music).

“My capstone was about the lyrics. I produced three podcasts, one was an intro and overview, one on guitar, and one on slide guitar. I met with Patti Kurtz (associate professor in English) and a vocal coach from Nashville to talk about ‘country twang,’ but we didn’t publish that one. I was the only person on the production doing the editing, filming, and producing.”

While country music isn’t most likely in their professional career path, writing about music or the music industry is a goal.

“I took a fifth year so I didn’t have to cram everything into the final year. I was able to explore some in English and in music, and I added the sociology and gender studies concentrations. I would love to synthesize all of those in a career,” Schmidt said. “I love to write and write about music and the real-life implications and importance the effect of music has on people.”

Now that Schmidt is no longer floating, they can look back and evaluate their career at Minot State.

“I wasn’t critically evaluating everything, my education and the real world,” they said. “As a peer mentor, we try to teach students about college and how to acclimate to college, and one of the big things is it is more than just taking a class to get a job.

“Now, I can take that advice to heart. I can see the world and how things are connected, the themes, and try to fix it based on what I’ve seen and learned and not just watch it go by.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 05/20/22   

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