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Finally a graduate (again)

Photos courtesy of Sarah McNaughton Sarah McNaughton hoklding diploma next to North Dakota State University sign and buffalo sculpture
FINISHED: After four and a half years and a successful thesis defense, I completed my Master of Education degree at North Dakota State University.
The long days and hard work of earning a master’s was well worth it.

After nearly nine years as a student at North Dakota State University, I am finally closing that chapter of my life. It’s a strange feeling.

My journey at NDSU started with my undergraduate degree, when I was dead set on becoming a large-animal veterinarian. But after my first six weeks of classes, my academic adviser told me I should probably find something else to do since I wasn’t good at math. I agreed, knowing that math wasn’t my best subject and not wanting to be in school for eight years. Isn’t it ironic that I ended up a student for almost nine years?

Being introduced to production agriculture as an undergrad, I met some of the best people — both students and professors. Even though I didn’t pursue vet school, I studied animal and equine science. Somewhere along the line, the double major changed to just animal science, and then to livestock media, and finally in my last semester, I switched all the way over to agriculture communications.

A huge thanks goes to my undergraduate adviser Loren Baranko-Faught. Every time I visited her office with a new idea, she took it in stride and helped me adjust my study route accordingly to make sure I succeeded.

Originally, grad school was my backup plan after seeing friend after friend accepting jobs in the fall semester of their senior year. As it turned out, I accepted a job working as a farm broadcaster in March of my senior year.

Part-time student, full-time worker

While working toward my master’s degree, I always had at least one full-time job. For the first two years of my degree in Extension education, I was taking classes after working a full day either chasing ag news or working as an Extension agent.

Being a morning person, I got through the 7 to 10 p.m. classes once a week by refilling my coffee when walking out the door. I enjoyed my graduate studies even more than my undergrad ones. There was no “busy work” or group projects; everything we did in class could be directly applied to work as an Extension agent.

The last two and a half years of my program consisted of researching, writing and completing my thesis. Somewhere in the last year, I switched my degree path from a Master of Science to a Master of Education. This helped me focus on the benefits of my research, as well as how the results can help direct 4-H program planning.

The subject of my research was the connection of youth who participated in 4-H STEM programming and their interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering or math. Originally, when I chose this route, I was an Extension agent for a large county, whose youth had interests in various fields of STEM learning, so it was a natural choice.

Sarah McNaughton and her partner Cole Peterson in their graduation robes

GRADUATING TOGETHER: My partner Cole Peterson and I walked at commencement together, completing our respective doctorate in pharmacy and master’s in education.

In May, I walked at the spring commencement with several friends and my partner. We were all graduating with different degrees and programs. Finishing our time as students together made the day even more memorable.

Even though I walked the stage in May, I just defended my thesis in mid-July. After finishing this last stage and filling out the graduation paperwork, it’s finally sinking in that my chapter as a student at NDSU is closing.

I’ve always loved learning (except maybe the math and statistics) and thoroughly enjoyed my time at NDSU. Even though I’m relieved to be finishing my student journey and to be done paying tuition, I’ll miss being a student at an institution that gave me so much.


TAGS: Education
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