Pat Okker

How did you determine that college was the right path for you, and how did you decide where you would attend?

Although they did not have college degrees themselves, both of my parents emphasized the importance of attending college, and two of my three older sisters were in college by the time I started to apply. I am forever grateful that my parents created the expectation that I seriously consider college.

What were the biggest challenges you faced — from enrollment to diploma — and how did you overcome them?

College was a lot more affordable when I was an undergraduate student, but even then it was a struggle financially. And as one of five kids in my family, I was always aware of the sacrifices my parents made. I worked part time during college, full time every summer and holiday vacation. I am also very grateful to the college donors who supported the scholarships I received.

Who inspired you, provided mentorship or otherwise helped you along the way?

My parents set an expectation that I would seriously consider college, which made all the difference. I also had incredible teachers who encouraged and inspired me. I would not be a college professor without the mentoring of those great teachers in college.

How did you meet people, make friends and get involved at your university?

I made friends in the residence hall, in the dining hall where I worked, in classes and in student organizations. There are many opportunities to make friends in college if you take advantage of them.

Outside of your academic studies, what did college teach you about yourself? How did those lessons help you in your professional career?

More than anything else, college helped me become a more curious person. I met people with different experiences than I had and took many courses outside my own major. I draw on these experiences every day, both in my personal and professional life.

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