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Makaia Decker
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

Makaia Decker

Graduation year: 2024

High school: Ottawa Township High School

Hometown: Ottawa, Ill.

Majors: Public health; women, gender, and sexuality studies (WGSS)

Minors: Sociology/anthropology; Interdisciplinary honors

Activities: Zeta Phi Kappa sorority, Asian Student Organization (ASO), UNYK Multicultural Dance Troupe

Internship: Gilda's Club Quad Cities

Post-grad plans: Join the workforce in the Quad-Cities area

Why Augustana?

I chose Augustana because of the multitude of resources available to help me succeed as a student. I knew there was a place for me on campus and that I could grow as a person, both inside and outside the classroom.

The small class sizes meant I wouldn't just be a number and the sense of a close community fostered at Augustana meant that I would find a strong support system through faculty, staff and peers.

Are you where you thought you'd be when you first came to campus?

I am not the person I thought I would be. I entered Augustana thinking I would be a biochemistry major wanting to do lab research after graduation. I never thought I would be a leader in student groups or become so involved with my departments. I have found my real interests and discovered what I really want to do in life.

Who helped you get to where you are now?

All of my advisors over the years have helped me tremendously: Dr. Lena Hann, Dr. Jane Simonsen and Dr. Dara Wegman-Geedey, They have helped me to navigate Augustana as a first-generation student. They opened my eyes to what my majors entail and have guided me academically and professionally, but have also pushed me to grow personally.

Additionally, I have been impacted by Dr. Kiki Kosnick because of their encouragement of me becoming a major in WGSS. If I hadn't taken their FYH-102 course during my freshman year, I may not have decided to add a second major. They have always looked out for me in the classroom and supported me outside of the classroom as a person. In reality, this is true of almost any professor I have had.

The TRIO-SSS staff — Jason Stalides, Anna Castro and Anna Badamo — have created an incredibly positive environment that allows me to express my creativity and grow professional skills through my time as a student worker.

Peak experience?

I will never forget my study abroad to Scandinavia with Dr. Hann in the summer of 2023. I loved the feeling of hiking up a volcano and just a short time later finding myself in the Blue Lagoon Hot Springs and then navigating myself through Stockholm (where I may or may not have gotten lost for a short time and had to be found by one of the trip leaders). 

It was amazing being exposed to a different approach to public health in a different area of the world, and I know I will always hold that close.

What surprised you?

I am surprised by the way that I stayed at Augustana through COVID. While I was set on going to college after high school, I knew there was a chance that COVID would make me want to leave an in-person campus setting and find a cheaper option near home or online. But I was surprised by the connections I made that were so strong that leaving campus was the last thing on my mind.

How did you use your Augie Choice?

I used my Augie Choice to help pay the program fee for my study abroad in Scandinavia.

What will you miss the most?

I will miss the late nights studying with my friends in the residence halls, the walking tacos at the Snack Bar, meetings for ASO, dance practices for UNYK, service projects with Zeta, and interacting with professors both inside and outside of the classroom.

Advice for the Class of 2028?

Get familiar with the resources available on campus. Of course this includes CORE, the Reading/Writing Center, TRIO, your advisors, etc. But also be aware of mentorship you can find by interacting with other students, mainly upperclassmen. For the most part, other students are willing to share their own experiences!

"Makaia has demonstrated curiosity, leadership and perseverance throughout their time at Augustana. Her interdisciplinary approach to social and health issues, both on campus and in the community, has exemplified what it means to put the liberal arts into practice. It was an honor getting to learn and travel alongside Makaia during our study abroad program where they demonstrated cultural competence, patience, kindness and an unmatched sense of adventure. Congratulations on your many achievements, Makaia; we are so proud of you!"

– Dr. Lena Hann, associate professor, public health