SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Friendship flourishes at Minot State

MINOT, N.D. – Abby Pankow, Eden Kramer, and Karolynn Winger grew up in Minot, but their friendship flourished at Minot State University in the Communications Science and Disorders program.

The students' pursuit of a Master's in Speech-Language Pathology brought them together. Leisa Harmon, assistant professor, noticed the trio's bond and collaboration throughout their time in the program.

“They seem like very close friends who do a lot together,” Harmon said. “I see them together a lot on campus, and I just think it is really unique that they came from three separate high schools but then really came together at Minot State. All three are great students, and we’re proud to have them as soon-to-be alumni.”

With a small community like Minot and such similarities, it’s a wonder these three students didn’t become closer sooner. Pankow, Kramer, and Winger attended different high schools and only intermittently crossed paths throughout adolescence. Pankow met Kramer and Winger through mutual friends.

“Abby’s now fiancé went to school with me at Bishop Ryan. We went to our prom as a group. I knew her, but we weren't super close at that point,” said Kramer. “Then coming to college, we both started as elementary education majors. We made the switch at the same time.”

“Karolynn and I had some mutual friends at Our Redeemers. I remember watching Karolynn play volleyball and basketball when she was in high school,” Pankow said. “We were friends through friends. Then we all decided to go to Minot State, and our friendship really grew while we went through undergrad and graduate school.”

Kramer and Winger had a bit of a high school rivalry. They played against each other throughout school in North Dakota High School Activities Association Class B sports. Winger shared a close encounter during one of their games.

“I’ve known Eden just because we live in a small town and playing Class B sports. You get to know people not necessarily by hanging out with them, but I've always known of Eden because she went to Bishop Ryan. We played basketball together, and she always had to guard me. One time, she elbowed me in the face. She went to box me out, and her arm just swung back, and my whole nose was bleeding. I thought she knocked out my teeth,” reflected Winger. “I always like to joke with her about how she almost knocked my teeth out.”

One thing all the girls could agree on before establishing their friendship was where they would be going to college. MSU was close to home and was an alma mater to many in their families.

After starting graduate school, the trio became closer than ever, moving together through all their classes, studies, and clinic hours. The friends started a study group together, which quickly turned into a weekly occurrence with upcoming hurdles in their program.

“Our graduate program is quite rigorous, and our students are sometimes here very late hours on campus doing their clinical work. I would see the three of them together a lot, supporting each other,” Harmon said. “They were really a source of strength and support for each other.”

“Going to graduate school is not for the weak, especially here,” Winger added. “I've always heard great things, and the expectations have always been high. You can't take that on and be successful unless you have people to lean on who are also going through the same thing. We just naturally gravitated towards each other.”

“You get to be really close, not only through relating to each other outside of school but also having the same life experiences here,” Kramer said. “Especially being in grad school, while a lot of our other friends have graduated and they've started their jobs, we're just in a different phase of life.”

The three speech-language pathology graduates are currently in their externships, putting their learned skills into practice. Before reaching this essential step, they had to conquer their comprehensive exams and PRAXIS test. The trio unanimously agreed that this milestone was worth celebrating.

“Passing comps and the PRAXIS was definitely a moment worth celebrating, so we all headed to Spicy Pie. It was such an achievement. Not only was I proud and happy for myself, but I was also so proud and happy for them, too,” said Pankow.

The three friends plan to stay connected beyond graduation. Just like the support they gave one another throughout graduate school, they plan to continue their support system outside of Minot State. They look forward to celebrating personal milestones such as Pankow and Kramer's weddings in the fall, the job search, staying up to date with the latest trends in their field, and possibly one day working together.

“As new things come out, we want to stay up to date on the research. Being able to talk about different strategies that they're using will be really helpful. Even going through continuing education classes together. I'm excited to see where we all end up,” said Pankow. “No matter if we're at a private practice or a school, we can still reach out to each other and collaborate,” adds Kramer.

“We've joked about opening a private practice. After we get some more experience under our belts, it would be super cool if we came back together,” said Winger. “It's definitely something we've thrown around and joked about. But it could be a serious thing one day.”

With graduation just around the corner for these three friends, the opportunities are endless, and so are the memories. All three easily agreed that Minot State was their best choice after finding careers they love and lifelong friendships.

“I'm super grateful and happy that I chose Minot State because of the friendships that I've made and how close our class, Abby, Eden, and I especially have become,” Winger reflected. “I just don't think you get that in a lot of other places.”

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: 05/03/24   

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