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Brenda Lee Johnston's Story

I share all this to say no matter how alone you may feel or how little support you may have, you don’t have to go it alone.

—Brenda Lee Johnston, MA, Assistant Professor, Arts Administration

Brenda Johnston

I dreamed of going to college from a very young age. In sixth grade, I announced where I’d be going to school and what I’d be studying (both of those things changed, of course). Coming from a small town of 1,000 people, I imagined an amazing four-year experience where I’d finally get to move away from home and be the me I dreamed of being. I’d have lots of friends, learn lots of different things, study abroad, and have the time of my life. It didn’t exactly turn out like I dreamed.

While I had grandparents, aunts, and uncles who went to school, neither of my parents had college experience. I did all of my research, planning, and financing on my own. This limited my options and my dreams of moving out of state. I got into a state school I liked, was studying what I thought I wanted, but I was lonely. When I came home for Thanksgiving, many family members did not want to interact with me because I had gone to college. At about the same time, I learned that my grandpa had cancer. He had always been my biggest supporter. Grandpa passed away the second week of sophomore year.

I realize now that I was severely depressed throughout my college years. I only had enough money for three years of school, so I raced to get out before having to take out a loan. I overloaded my credits, went to only one party, returned home most weekends to work, only had three friends with whom I wasn’t terribly close, and never studied abroad. I often thought about seeking counseling but allowed the negative stigma about counseling to keep me from going.

I share all this to say no matter how alone you may feel or how little support you may have, you don’t have to go it alone. There are so many people and resources available to help you through any situation. This is what your advisors are for. I didn’t realize the resources available to me. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and to seek support from the myriad resources available on campus.

And know that it all works out. I’ve had an amazing career, got to study abroad later in life, and have developed incredible friendships. While I don’t regret my college experience, I would do it differently if I could, and I’m here to help students navigate their own paths to have the college experiences of their dreams.