SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: ‘The Green Couch’ continues to inspire Peterson

MINOT, N.D. – Hannah Peterson has always had a passion for helping people.

But she can pinpoint the spark, and it stems from time spent on the green couch with her ailing grandfather.

“I knew that I really loved being with people when they are going through something hard or grieving something,” she said. “I am interested in grief counseling, and that goes back to my grandpa. He died when I was in high school, and I can remember it was summer, and he would be outside in his Carhartt coat because he was so cold, and I told him let’s go inside.

“He shared a lot with me, childhood traumas, things that were still bothering him, and lessons he wanted me to learn. I went away for camp and got a call that I had better come home before he passed. He was waiting for me to get home. I wrote a story about it called ‘The Green Couch,’ and that was the spark.”

Fast forward to graduation week, and that passion hasn’t subsided.

“I got to do an internship this year at an elementary school in town, and it was amazing,” Peterson said. “I loved it. I got to work with kids and families, and it was a fantastic opportunity. I’ve spent a lot of time working with Prairie Grit Adaptive Sports and will use my skills to continue to help that agency. We had the U.S. Sled Hockey Team at our school, and it was just so fun — my two worlds I’ve been a part of were colliding.”

Peterson grew up with Minot State as her father, Scott Peterson, is a long-time employee.

“I try not to make it a big thing that my dad works here, not because I’m ashamed of him or anything, but I want to make this my own thing,” she said. “He is so proud of me, I know that, and people tell me that all the time, but he’s had to adjust to me, especially in the social work degree, being a more private person. He is outgoing and talks to everyone; I’m more reserved.”

While her passion for helping never subsided, there were times she questioned her desire to continue with higher education and with MSU. Former director of the Academic Support Center, Beth Odahlen, reached out with what proved to be a fateful contact for Peterson.

“Honestly, during my first year here with COVID, it was kind of hard. I was ready to drop out; I felt this was a waste of my time; I wasn’t meeting people, and I wasn’t happy,” Peterson said. “Beth was my FYE (First Year Experience) teacher, and she reached out and said she thought I would be great for the orientation staff and wanted me to volunteer with the first Emerging Leaders Program. I figured I would try it; it was kind of my last hope, but it was where I found my voice.”

Her time in the MSU Looyenga Leadership Center has proved pivotal for her maturation. Peterson still prefers one-on-one interaction but has relished taking on the role of leader, even if she isn’t the loudest person in the room.

“It started with Beth’s call and then my time with Jim (Jim Sturm, Looyenga Leadership Center) as a part of the Launching Leadership events and with orientations,” Peterson said. “Those are big events, and you just have to overcome any doubts and figure it out. I was standing on the stage at Ann Nicole Nelson Hall (at orientation) and was terrified, but it was a pivotal moment for me; I just kept speaking, and I had so many freshmen come up and say they could relate to my story.

“I might not be the most outgoing person or the loudest, but I feel I’ve become a more personable leader.”

She believes her degree in social work can make a lasting impression on a generation that will grow up with a global pandemic as one of their defining characteristics.

“COVID was overwhelming for me at the start, but I know now how it is impacting the younger populations,” she said. “I hope to be an advocate for this generation. In the end, I don’t think the pandemic impacted me that much; I got past it, but there are people who were hit much worse. There are kids who didn’t go to school for multiple months, I want to focus on helping them and try to make some meaningful changes.

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: 05/07/24   

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