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Dec. 12, 2012
By Steve Wieberg, contributing writer
Jump in his car, and Northwest Missouri State was just 15 minutes up the road from family, friends and the small rural town that was – and still is – Kirk Skoglund’s home.
His sights were set on teaching, and there was no better place in the state to train for that.
Skoglund’s dad was a Northwest alum. His older brother, too. It seemed so natural four years ago to follow them there, so fitting.
“It was really convenient, it was close, and part of me didn’t like that,” Skoglund says. “Would I ever move on? Move away?”
Now about to graduate Friday, Dec. 14, with a degree in secondary education, the senior from Barnard looks back on his choice of Northwest and maintains, “It was absolutely the best decision I took no part in.”
Skoglund’s career at Northwest has taken him twice to England in connection with the University’s collaboration with Birmingham City University on student employment. He’ll continue to work in the program after graduation, splitting time between Maryville and Birmingham while assisting in the development and implementation of new peer-support strategies – drawing on the four years he spent tutoring fellow students at Northwest.
It’ll put off his teaching career for at least a year, maybe longer.
“I hope it’s not too long or I’ll get really rusty,” says Skoglund, who’s nearing the end of a semester of student teaching at Platte County High School north of Kansas City. “At the same time, those are some pretty exciting opportunities that I hate to pass up.”
Northwest became his land of opportunity.
Skoglund arrived anxious and unsure. Yes, it was familiar. But it was also far bigger than South Nodaway High School in Barnard, where he’d cut a wide and impressive swath as part of a graduating class of 17.
Skoglund was the valedictorian. He was captain of the football, basketball and academic teams, drum major in the marching band and president of the student council. He wondered, he says, how he possibly could be so involved on a campus of some 6,800 students.
“He struggled some in his transition to college,” says Dr. Leslie Galbreath, the University’s director of academic and library services and a longtime friend of the Skoglund family. “It was kind of a weird form of homesickness even though he was literally 15 minutes from home. He really had been a very big fish in a very small pond, and this was upside-down for him.”
Galbreath also oversaw Northwest’s Talent Development Center, was aware of Skoglund’s grasp of math and immediately recruited him to the center as a tutor. He seemed born to it, and became one of the center’s most requested math tutors.
“He seems to notice when people need help with something, even before they ask. And he’s a very giving person in terms of time,” says Dr. Christine Benson, an associate professor of mathematics and statistics and Skoglund’s academic advisor all four years.
“He appreciates being able to understand mathematics … and he’s willing to share. Sometimes, people who pick up things very easily are not very patient with people who don’t. He’s just not that way. He wants to make sure everybody understands things as well as he does because he wants people to enjoy the learning and enjoy the mathematics as much as he does.”
It’s a family calling. Skoglund’s father, Bruce, is a former high school agriculture teacher who went into administration and now is superintendent of the King City R-I School District. Older brother Dustin teaches junior high English and history at South Nodaway.
An aunt, grandmother, grandfather and great grandmother – all were or still are teachers.
“I guess I kind of got steered that way,” Skoglund says. “And then in high school, some of my teachers relied on me to help some of my classmates, and I liked being able to help someone else and being able to make a difference. It pushed me further in that direction.”
In the tutoring labs and beyond, he worked through his initial insecurity at Northwest. Skoglund counts nine, maybe 10 jobs he has held on campus, and in April 2011 he was named Northwest’s Student Employee of the Year. He was admitted to the Honors Program, recognized by the math department as its outstanding freshman and became president of the school’s Mathematical Association of America chapter as a sophomore.
Skoglund also found time for intramural basketball and racquetball and got involved in the campus chapter of To Write Love on Her Arms, a non-profit organization devoted to helping people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and thoughts of suicide.
What he gained along the way, he says, was “the value of, in some way, stepping outside your comfort zone, branching out and meeting new people, looking at things from a new perspective. That’s probably the thing I’ll take the most from Northwest.”
As he moves closer to stepping onto the stage during commencement, “I get sadder and sadder – and also more excited, I guess – every day,” he says. “I’m excited to graduate, I guess officially growing up.
“I think it would be a lot more emotional if I was leaving and I knew I wasn’t going to be coming back as a staff member. Northwest has kind of become my home. It developed into this place where I found who I was and what I wanted to do.
“And I’ve made so many great friends. It’s practically like a big family.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468