Life is full of impactful moments, ones that take you from someplace you expected to a path of invigorating unfamiliarity. That unfamiliar path can be exciting and often delivers individuals to an ongoing series of rewarding experiences.
Just ask Excelsior College instructor Kathryn Saintcross. A faculty member since 2014, the native of Burlington, Vermont, earned undergraduate degrees in psychology, business administration, and retailing and merchandising from her hometown Trinity College and Champlain College. These degrees led her into a variety of fields, concentrating on such focuses as management, team development and training, and technical writing throughout the public and private sector, starting in 1976.
But when she decided to pursue an MBA, she elected to eschew another brick-and-mortar locale and enroll with Excelsior College.
“I can remember feeling nervous and overwhelmed as I started my first graduate course. I wondered if I would be successful earning a degree online,” said Saintcross, who now lives in New York’s Capital Region. “Like many adult learners, I was raising a family, working full-time, [plus] taking care of an elderly neighbor, and doing other volunteer work. Time was a precious commodity. Gratefully, I had a wonderful professor and I began to relax and excel in my work.”
And Saintcross understood the importance of good instruction. Over the years, she’d served as a teacher in a variety of capacities, working with everyone from young children with learning disabilities and adolescents with behavioral problems, to adult learners eager to pursue new avenues. But after earning her master’s at Excelsior (where she also served as an academic advisor), she was encouraged to extend her experience to other students—so she became an adjunct instructor.
Since 2014—when began teaching business-related Organizational Behavior and Management Concepts and Applications courses—Saintcross has been an integral part of the Excelsior experience, aiming to extend the kind of instruction that such an impact on her education. This starts and ends with the students, and she points to them as the reason she’s moved to the front of the class.
“I have enjoyed many wonderful teaching moments at Excelsior College and can only credit them to the students,” she says. “It’s great when they make connections between theoretical information and actual business practices. When I can help them gain a deeper understanding of their own styles and tendencies and how they relate to others in the business world, that’s even more exciting.”
According to Saintcross, these experiences have been numerous. The student with a full-time job, three young children, and an infant who somehow managed to always hit her assignment deadlines. The student who suffered through a chronic medical condition while protecting his family from Hurricane Irma, yet still earned an impressive grade. The student whose critical thinking and reflection allowed him to understand himself and the world around him in a whole new way. All are part of the collective experience of the Excelsior student, and all have helped to enrich an instructor intent on preparing students for the days after their degrees.
She’s helping them navigate their own shifting narratives, all while they add to her ongoing and continuously fulfilling Excelsior adventure.
“Many students have created their own impressive success stories through determination, hard work, and perseverance,” says Saintcross. “I am just there to guide, encourage, and empower them along their journey and it is an honor and privilege to do so.”
More from Kathryn Saintcross:
Important skills for success
In a time when texting and social media have made sentence fragments and spelling mistakes the norm, students need to understand the importance of writing skills for both undergraduate- and graduate-level coursework. “Students who have strong written English skills tend to have an easier time and earn better grades,” says Saintcross. “A common grading criterion on the grading rubrics pertains to writing style, spelling, and grammar.
Why Excelsior works for today’s students
The modern, multitasking student is often without blocks of unassailable time to accommodate stand course schedules. That’s why, in Saintcross’s estimation, Excelsior’s eight-week courses—scheduled six times per year—make incredible sense to any student. “This allows traditional and nontraditional students the opportunity to advance through their degrees rather quickly, as they do not have to wait for the longer spring and fall terms that traditional schools offer.”
An under-the-radar benefit of the Excelsior experience
With every college experience, a particular institution’s resources—whether on campus or throughout its host communities—can mean the difference between frustration or a future. According to Saintcross, this “unsung hero” at Excelsior is its Career Center. “[The center] offers all kinds of useful information and support to help students prepare for the job of their dreams. Students can even schedule a free consultation with a career counselor.”
One thing learned as a faculty member she wished she knew as a student
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. This can be hard to accept for those used to excellence, but it’s all part of a process that, success or failure, always ends in an education. “I learned it is perfectly okay to be a perfectionist in my academic endeavors, but it is not necessary,” says Saintcross. “I encourage students to do their best, but also to relax a bit and enjoy the learning experience.”