Chris Munson | Stevens Point, WI
Growing up, I felt these lessons deep inside of me, and I looked at the world a little bit differently than my peers did. I don’t know if it’s intrinsic or extrinsic, or if it is subconscious, or how it came to be, but I believe I view things the way I do because of my ancestors.
When I was going to school in Mosinee, I was a bit of an outsider, even though I grew up there. I didn’t quite fit in, but I got to a point where I was okay with that. For example, our high school nickname was the “Indians,” and “Welcome to Indian Country” was painted on the archway in the main entrance. This was in the early 1990s when the spearfishing treaty rights controversy was in the news. In art class, a student made a print that said, “Spear a pregnant squaw, save two walleyes.” It did not make sense to me how students could cheer for their “Indians” on the football field and then protest Ojibwe families exercising their treaty rights. I never felt welcome in that school.
I now live in Stevens Point with my family and work in Student Services at Northcentral Technical College (NTC) at the Wausau campus. I love working in higher education. NTC is one of sixteen sister technical colleges in the state. In my various roles within Student Services, I’ve helped students map out their program plan, understand financial aid policies, talk through difficult decisions, connect with disability services, and learn the hidden language of college. Student Services provides wraparound support so students can focus as much energy as possible on their academics and their learning growth as they maneuver through higher ed.
I was working with a student who was close to the end of her program. She was having a difficult pregnancy and talked with me about dropping classes. I helped her connect with faculty to discuss options and we found a way she could finish her classes, meet graduation requirements, and reduce stress to help with her pregnancy. It’s very rewarding for me to play a small role in helping somebody who has the courage to walk through those doors and take that courageous step of expanding their knowledge and taking a risk. By doing so, we may be propelling people into whatever it is their desire to become. I like working for a college that meets students where they’re at. My favorite tagline for NTC is, “We are the college that cares.”
Technical colleges play a critical role in our communities. We are very student-focused and connected with the communities that we serve. We develop and modify curriculum to meet the upcoming needs of our local service areas. Technical colleges in Wisconsin are addressing gaps in access and graduation through an equity lens. We remove barriers for our students so anyone seeking a technical education has access and support systems to be successful.
I am grateful for the choices and decisions that I’ve made, the people who’ve been there for me, and even the people who have put roadblocks in front of me because it’s brought me to where I am right now. From my life experiences, I recognize we don’t always feel like we have a place to belong. If I can help build some bridges, or maybe help clear a little bit of a path so that things seem achievable for someone else, that’s where I feel my heart’s work is.
We are all working together for our students, and I’m so thankful that I’m able to do the things I do. I hope I’ve put good things back out into the world.
This story was produced by Carol Amour.