“Brockport helped me come out of my shell and discover a world outside my typical realm of interest.”
The College at Brockport strongly supports student involvement and an engaged learning experience, and few students represent this mission better than Kristen Fluhler. In both academics and extracurriculars — across campus and across the world — she has not had to choose from among her many interests, but delves extensively into each one. Kristen began her college experience at Brockport as a freshman in 2011. As the oldest of four children in her Washingtonville, NY, home, she jokes of being the “guinea pig” for transitioning into college, but she feels the transition has been a successful one. She came to Brockport knowing she wanted to study creative writing, but the support of a close friend, fellow student Kenny Beck, encouraged her to incorporate her love of dance with a second major in arts for children.
When not in an English or dance classroom, Kristen can be found at any number of places around the College campus. She is a peer mentor for incoming freshmen and will be working with the Office of Student Retention to further improve the mentor experience for students in the coming years. She also works as an Orientation Student Advisor in the summer. Kristen is working her way through the Leadership Development Program, having recently completed the second-level Gold Certificate in working with a service group. She also works with Prevention and Outreach Services as a student health advocate. She is particularly excited to help this group plan programming and lectures that improve the health and awareness of her fellow Brockport students.
Recently, Kristen saw an opportunity to expand upon campus awareness of mental health issues and created the Active Minds club, for which she serves as president. The club is dedicated to educating the student population about mental health disorders and reducing existing stigmas. The group will participate in the College’s annual Diversity Conference and will organize a campus-wide “Dear ____” event, a new way for students to express their mental health concerns or stressors through anonymous letters. The club attracted 24 members in just four months and continues to grow.
Another passion of Kristen’s is traveling the world. She says, “I would like to hit each continent at least twice in my life — well, maybe not Antarctica, but definitely the others.” She has taken advantage of the travel opportunities at Brockport by participating in a two-week study abroad session in Spain, Morocco, Portugal and France. And during WinterSession 2014, she traveled nearly 24 hours to spend two weeks in New Zealand, which she calls “the most amazing and rewarding experience” of her life. “Not only is the culture of the Kiwi people themselves completely different and incredible, but the opportunities to expand your interests and comfort areas are endless in New Zealand, because it has so much to offer,” she says. “With this trip, I’ve found great friends, inspirational leadership through Nancy Vander Molen [faculty leader of the New Zealand program], and a greater understanding and appreciation for the Kiwi people — and I found who I want to be in the world.” Kristen’s continued travel aspirations will take her to Ireland in summer 2015. She shares these experiences and her excitement with fellow students as a global ambassador for the Office of International Education.
There are a few additional experiences that Kristen considers particularly memorable so far. First, the annual Tunnel of Oppression event addressing issues of harassment, power and privilege is something she will remember even 20 years from now. The Tunnel of Oppression consists of a series of scenes to educate and challenge students to think more deeply about oppression. This event in 2013 made such a lasting impression on Kristen that she encouraged her Gold Leadership Certificate group to participate in the event in 2014 by presenting a scene on bullying. For the 2014–15 academic year, she and her friend Kenny will serve as co-chairs for the event. Kristen also acknowledges that her relationship with her Leadership Development Program mentor, Valerie Roy, marketing associate for the College, has been instrumental in helping her grow and come out of her shell. Finally, she has been inspired by working with coordinator Nick Wagner in Prevention and Outreach Services, because she finds him to have “a good mix of professionalism and enthusiasm” that she aspires to demonstrate herself.
The future for Kristen will hold continued involvement in many aspects of the College and community. Upon completion of her bachelor’s degrees, she plans to go right into a graduate program and hopes to return to work in higher education. When asked about her résumé thus far, Kristen jokes, “My résumé truly seems very random. I am involved in so many different areas that do not relate to one other, but each one is meaningful to me.” She hopes to continue growing across this spectrum to become an increasingly diverse and well-rounded individual.