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Friday, October 22, 2010

Trinity Interrupted: Learning Outcomes

Elise Goen almost always starts what she finishes. She came to Trinity in 2006 and should have graduated last May. She actually did graduate on time, but as an Oklahoma Sooner. Her destiny wasn't to finish here, but Trinity is proud of her anyway. If we could give her half a degree, I swear we would.

I was shocked when I saw the transfer application for Elise, who was studying abroad in Poland. I immediately called her mother, Patty (above right) in College Station to see if there was some kind of mistake. There wasn't. Trinity grad and Express-News higher education reporter Melissa Ludwig had been covering Elise that year as part of a series on access and retention of college students. She tracked two others from different campuses as well.

When Melissa contacted me to recommend a student for her to follow, Elise immediately came to mind. She embodied all the best traits of a Trinity student: bright, compassionate, enthusiastic, and fun. But her background was really different.

I met Elise in her first week at Trinity. She was one of the original runners in my "run with the Dean" program during new student orientation. It was clear from the outset that she was someone special and was mature beyond her years. As the oldest child of five, Elise had to grow up quickly when her parents, both doctors, packed up the family and moved to Nigeria to do Christian missionary work. Elise had to work hard from age 12 to help her family and also invest in her own non-traditional educational experiences.

There was never a question that she would graduate after a successful career here. But she knew this boy. One Express-News article offered a clue of what was to follow. "She dreams of becoming a diplomat... But domesticity tugs at her heartstrings too. Having grown up in a large family she wants lots of children and has a boyfriend too." I'd say. She got married and transferred to Oklahoma University to be with her fighter pilot husband, Dave. They are moving to a military base in North Dakota.

This is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. It was a tough choice, with her heart being in two places. It was the right choice. Elise is able to have it all. She is in love and happily married and has her college degree. I wonder if Melissa Ludwig knows. Elise is a success and as the Express-News series predicted, her trajectory toward academic success was strong. It gets better for Trinity. There is another. Elise and her mom were in town because Elise's brother, James, was here for a campus tour. According to them, he is better than Elise. Ha!

So, maybe we'll get a Goen to graduate from here at some point. It seems that we really already did, even though technically... On this alumni weekend on campus, I look forward to the return of many Trinity grads. They have their Trinity degrees. Elise doesn't. Still, for me. she'll always be one of them anyway.

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