Voice Magazine / Stories / 2019 Fall / It’s All About Connections
Kathy Duncan

It’s All About Connections

I consider it my mission to facilitate learning to meet our students’ personal and professional goals.

The University of La Verne would have been a great fit for me, a first-generation student.

Instead, I attended a large university — and failed.

I had graduated among the top 10 students of my small high school class. I won a full scholarship to a top university. When I arrived on campus, though, I found it overwhelming. I sat in some classes with 200 other students. I never once spoke to the instructor. I didn’t realize there was tutoring available.

I was lost. As a result, I was academically disqualified by the end of my first academic year. It was not the welcoming atmosphere we have at University of La Verne, with small class sizes and faculty who care.

I eventually found my way to a community college, where I earned an associate degree in nursing. I began my 20-plus-year career as a registered nurse and eventually went back to school to complete a bachelor’s degree at a Cal State. I worked as a clinical nurse, nurse manager, and educator in a variety of clinical settings. It was not until I began looking for a master’s degree that I discovered La Verne.

In the nurturing and stimulating environment of the Master of Science in Leadership and Management program, I was encouraged to consider a career change by one of my favorite faculty members, who became my mentor. I finished the master’s degree, started a doctoral program, and began teaching as an adjunct instructor.

I had always done some teaching in my healthcare career, but now I found my true passion — a place where all my experience, education, and gifts could come together for a new and exciting purpose.

I completed a doctorate in organizational leadership at La Verne. Not bad for someone who flunked out of their freshman year of college. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to become a full-time management professor at the institution I had grown to love.

Now it is my job to help students find success. Sometimes, they don’t know what they don’t know. Or, they are uncertain what resources are available to assist them in their educational journey. Faculty can direct them toward help and encourage them along the way.

I tell adult students returning to graduate school, after a break of many years, “I earned an associate degree in my 20s, a bachelor’s in my 30s, a master’s in my 40s, and a doctorate in my 50s. You can do this!”

I consider it my mission now to facilitate learning to meet our students’ personal and professional goals. It is such a privilege to see them grow and develop into the best version of themselves.

I love watching as they gain confidence and skills that they then apply in their real-world organizations. It is all about connections. Students connect with faculty to learn what they need for their goals. Students connect with one another for support in classes and for networking after graduation.

Connections mean more prepared graduates who have a positive impact on their organizations and their communities.