Not your typical student

Written by Christopher J Leonard

Running on sheer determination, adrenaline, and caffeine, I’ve been able to be a full-time student along with numerous other commitments and perform well enough with little sleep. I commute usually an hour to St. Edward’s from my house in Hutto. I also work 32+ hours a week on the ‘graveyard shift’ as a security guard about 20 minutes away from the university. I joined the Texas Army National Guard last year, so that is another commitment that I’ve needed to keep up with. When I heard that I needed to complete an internship or study abroad program on top of my existing schedule, I wasn’t thrilled but I knew that I would find a way to make it work. I must say I have gotten something out of the internships, volunteering, and other outside activities. I’ve been interning with the Kozmetsky Center of Excellence and with El Buen Samaritano as a Digital Literacy volunteer.

The Kozmetsky Center of Excellence is an organization at St. Edward’s University. The goal of the organization is to educate and facilitate discussion on a wide variety of interdisciplinary topics. A big part of this is accomplished by bringing in experts from various fields to address critical global and regional challenges. As stated on the website, “The Kozmetsky Center contributes to advancing the mission of St. Edward’s University to educate students from all walks of life and prepare graduates with the tools needed to contribute to a more just world.”

My role at the Kozmetsky Center includes supporting the center in event management, protocol, and campus and community outreach. I’ve had the opportunity to brief classes, talk with professors about forthcoming events, and help with sharing events on social media. I’ve reached out to organizations on and off campus to inform and remind them of what we are doing. Some of the more mundane tasks include stapling and taping up flyers all over campus as well as setting up the sandwich boards in strategic locations. I like the feeling of doing everything I can though.

Prior to an event, we test the equipment to make sure all the microphones, video, lighting, and other multimedia are good to go. This is very important to ensure the event goes smoothly and the speaker feels welcomed. I enjoy being dressed up for the event, meeting with the speakers, and passing around the microphone during question-and-answer. 

This picture was taken during a meeting of veterans and ROTC members with our latest speaker, Major General (retired) Mari Eder. We discussed leadership and contemporary communication challenges.

I set up and dial in for the Council on Foreign Relations conference call series. There are usually three of these per month on Wednesdays at 11 AM. Towards the end of every call, the speaker will ask those listening if we have any questions. We are one of several universities that call in. 

I’m looking forward to conducting more research on some topics and answering topical questions once I get the green light on one of my preliminary research topics.

Some benefits for me at the Kozmetsky Center include being at every event to absorb the content and networking with others.

Usually once a week, I volunteer at El Buen Samaritano as a secondary instructor and a couple of times as the primary. We’ve gone over typing, using a mouse, searching the internet, copying, pasting, cutting, saving a document, and printing among other things. I demonstrate—one-on-one usually, as needed—how to use computer peripherals, software, applications, and the internet. Typically, we follow a daily lesson plan. Every plan builds upon prior knowledge taught.

One of the challenges with the internship is that I’ve needed to brush up on my Spanish speaking and listening skills. I am inspired by the adults there who are improving their skills and like the rapport I’ve built with them. They seem to value my assistance in learning and extend their patience with me when I would be searching for the right phrase. I may continue assisting even after I graduate.

I am very excited to be in my final semester at St. Edward’s University! Being over 30 and having experienced various things in my personal and professional life, I feel like I’ve brought a different perspective to my classes and internships. After being laid-off from my job in Austin after two years, I struggled to find the right opportunity to thrive with purpose. My three associate degrees and a couple of I.T. certifications helped me, but I was ready to focus on finishing my B.A. full-time. Because I am a veteran of the U.S. Army, I’ve been able to take advantage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon program. I am blessed to have just enough money to make my house payment and support my family.  I wish you all the best success. I know that success and happiness mean different things to different people. I hope you find what is important to you.



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