Katie Brooks talks about how her liberal arts degree led to a leadership position in health care
When did you first realize Marylhurst University was “the one”? What was it about Marylhurst that made you say, “That’s where I’m going to school!”
I realized Marylhurst University was “the one” the first time I came on campus. I found the English literature program online and immediately made an appointment to come talk with Donna in Admissions. She was so excited — it made me excited! I had just come out of a divorce and was ready to chase this dream I had always wanted. I didn’t know how plausible it was, and I had a lot of doubt about myself and my ability to complete the program. Once I talked with Donna and toured the campus I knew this would be my home. I loved the way the classes were conducted, the small class sizes and the attention to adult learners. I also thought it was pretty spectacular that this amazing brick and mortar school was offering these courses online, and that I could rotate and take some classes in person on the weekends and the majority of my classes online. It made me feel like I could find a community at my college which hadn’t been my experience taking online courses through other schools.
Was your Marylhurst experience exactly what you expected? Any surprises along the way?
It was so much better than I expected. I knew it would be good, and I knew I would receive a quality education. However, I could never have imagined I would feel so connected with my cohort and professors. It felt like an honor to step into a classroom led by Keri Behre or Perrin Kerns, to login online and have feedback from Jay Ponteri on a paper, or to observe Shakespeare in Ashland with Meg Roland. These professors, and so many more, shaped me into a better human. They helped me to look at society through a different lens, to think critically and properly bear witness to the world around me. This goes so far beyond the research and writing that I had experienced at other schools. There is also an air of compassion and understanding from the professors. If I had trouble with a timeline, all I needed to do was talk with them, and they would help me come up with a solution to complete the work in a way that I could feel good about. It felt as if they truly cared about what was happening in my life, and well as what I was bringing to the classroom.
Shortly after you graduated, you were offered a leadership position at Enlivant: Senior Executive Director, overseeing three senior living communities in Clark County. Clearly, your nearly 14 years experience in the health care field played a big role. Did your education at Marylhurst contribute to your landing that job? How so?
Yes! I had always worked as a nurse, but it had been my goal for several years to transition to an executive director role. I had a lot of experience in healthcare, but none in this high of a level of management. I took several elective classes at Marylhurst that contributed to developing my leadership abilities, as well as developing good communication and conflict management skills. Once I completed my degree, I felt confident about what I had learned and how I had grown as a person while receiving my education.
Within weeks of completing my degree, I began applying for executive director positions. When I interviewed at Enlivant, I wondered if I would be able to convince the regional director that a liberal arts degree would make me a more qualified candidate. As I sat in the interview, the moment came when I mentioned I had recently graduated. He asked what my major was. With pride (and a bit of trepidation) I responded “English literature” to which he replied “EXCELLENT!” Upon further discussion, I realized that he valued a liberal arts degree as much as (or more) than a business degree, and for the same reasons I did. The value of a liberal arts education goes far beyond the papers you write, it shapes the person you become and how you will then impact the people around you.
Anything else you’d like to share about your time at Marylhurst?
If I can do this, anyone can. I attended Marylhurst for three years. I went full-time and didn’t even take summers off. I am a single mom with three children, and I worked a full-time job throughout the entire three years. It was hard, and there were days I wanted to quit. But I had a support system of my fellow students, my professors and advisors that pushed me to keep going.
Growing up, the value of an education wasn’t necessarily made a priority to us. In fact, I am the first person to graduate from a university in my family. This is all to say: We will always have reasons why we cannot do something; we have to put those out of our minds. If you want something bad enough, you can overcome anything to get it. Marylhurst is just the university to help do that. Had I not had a campus that felt like a retreat each time I stepped foot on it, I may have turned back. Had I not had professors that inspired me, or a cohort that uplifted and encouraged each other, I may not have made it through the program to graduate with honors. It was a combination of what I believe is truly a perfect adult education university and my own perseverance and determination that allowed me to be so successful at Marylhurst University… and for that success to carry over to my career and continue to propel me forward.