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kirsten mathisen
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

Kirsten Mathisen

Graduation year: 2014

Majors: History, English

Activities: Augustana Symphony Orchestra, Chi Omega Gamma sorority 

Post-grad plans: I used to say “I have no idea,” but this year I realized that is not true. My answer now is that I have a lot of ideas, but no plans. Some dreams are to live in a foreign country, learn another language, play the fiddle in a band, go to graduate school for history or comparative literature, or work in public history.

Why did you choose to attend Augustana?

I knew I wanted to go to a small liberal arts college, but Augustana started out on the bottom of my list. My dad and my sister went here, but I wanted to blaze my own trail. I don’t know exactly when or where, but after visiting Augie, having a memorable admissions tour, and getting helpful scholarships, I was more than excited about Augie — I was set on it.

Are you where you thought you’d be four years ago?

I came to Augie undecided and completely unaware of what lay ahead. My freshman year I took any class that interested me and starred every email about free food, dance lessons, trivia nights, this club and that meeting. My time here has shaped and defined me, but it didn’t narrow my interests — it broadened them. I am leaving Augie and looking at the next four years of my life in the same way that I came — overwhelmed and enthusiastic about all the possibilities ahead.

Who helped you get to where you are now?

Everyone. Without a doubt I think of my family first. They are always there to encourage, but also rationalize and ground my dreaming self. I say everyone though because it starts with my family and extends through the Augie community and beyond. Whether it is a conversation with a stranger on the plane to Augie, inspiration from a professor or laughter with friends, I am always supported and positively challenged.

A peak experience?

On the Religion in Rome trip, I walked through history in the vibrant beautiful city and ate gelato everyday. It was not just the traveling itself, but also the service-learning portion of the class with World Relief in Rock Island. I got to know a refugee family from Burma, and that connection was the first of many that surpassed language barriers and cultures. I stayed in Europe for three months, had many more of those wonderful encounters, and was even able to visit an Augie exchange student at her home in Germany. I recently returned from Holden Village term, which was absolutely the icing on the cake of my time at Augie. It was a winter wonderland filled with Augie and extended community and close friendships. Oh, and we wrote a musical!

What did you learn about yourself in these past four years that surprised you?

I learned that if I go confidently in the direction of my dreams and endeavor to live the life I imagine, I will meet with unexpected success. I learned that from good old Henry David Thoreau, Dr. Calder, Dr. Peters, from experience and from my parents. I also learned that I like learning. My passionate professors and interesting classes brought out the curiosity and questions in me that I didn’t know I had.

How did you use your Augie Choice?

I used my Augie Choice for the Religion in Rome study abroad program, and a great choice it was. 

What will you miss the most?

The little things...the slough path in the fall, transitional living assistance, the stained glass windows in the chapel, the candy in the English department office, my favorite book in the library: "Dinosaur Pop Up Book", the Denkmann attic, orchestra concerts, being the only Texan, the learning...the late-night conversations with my friends that should have earned us college credit, my professors’ offices, syllabus day, old Old Main classrooms. The people, all of them.

Advice for the Class of 2018?

Adventure! Wherever you go, talk to people, listen to their stories and share a little bit of yourself with everyone you meet. Go to all sorts of campus events, go out into the Quad Cities, go on a study abroad trip. Take any and every class that interests you.

"Kirsten was a freshman the first time her name came up in a department meeting. ‘She's amazing,’ a colleague said, echoing my thoughts exactly. Kirsten added zip to classes because she saw connections between things. Could we get her to major in history? She did, and now Kirsten is exploring connections that push the envelope of contemporary historical studies — like the significance of literature for understanding the American 1960s, the subject of her senior thesis."

- Dr. Lendol Calder, professor, history