50th Anniversary Alumni Stories

Current students interview alumni; create videos and blog posts for communication course

Students in College Success Strategies classes (INTS 1101) at Inver Hills Community College spent fall semester 2019 interviewing Inver alumni for a project in sync with the college’s 50th Anniversary celebration. Amy Zsohar, PhD, communication studies faculty, gave the following assignment to her students:

50th Anniversary Alumni Interview Project

This semester we will be partnering with the Center for Career Development and Community-Based Learning, the Inver Hills Foundation, and the Marketing department to collect the stories of Inver Hills alumni. You will be in pairs or trios to complete this assignment.

  1. With your partner(s), you will be given the name of alumni who have agreed to be interviewed by you. You will contact them and set up a time to interview them. The interviews will be conducted in one of three ways:
    • In person
    • On the phone
    • By email
  2. With the help of the Marketing Department, we will put together interview questions and get tips on how to successfully interview someone.
  3. You and your partner(s) will conduct the interviews.
    • If they are willing to come to campus and be filmed, you will create a video of their story. We will discuss some ideas of what this can look like.
    • If they are willing to talk over the phone, we will ask for permission to record their interview and create a podcast. You will be trained on how to use the podcast room in the learning center.
    • If they would prefer a written story, you will write a blog post about their interview. This will be written in the form of a news report.
  4. The final product will be either a video, a podcast or a blog. We will make these of a quality that they can be included on the 50th Anniversary website, DCTC & IHCC: Two Proud Histories, One Bold Future.
    [Note: The alumni interviews will be on website in the near future.]

More on the project in Dr. Zsohar’s own words:

Amy Zsohar, PhD
Amy Zsohar, PhD

Alumni interviews, first-year students, and lessons we did not expect to learn

This semester, in an attempt to make my classes fresh and challenging, I proposed to the 50th Anniversary Committee that I have my students in College Success Strategies interview alumni as both a gift to the campus and a way to learn from those who had been here and completed what they are just starting: College.

Throughout the semester, we worked to create initial emails to our alumni, the list of questions for the interviews, discussed how to best handle the interviews, and what the final product should be.

College Success Strategies is a course that is taught in partnership with Introduction to College Reading and Writing in the Learning Community entitled Read, Write and Succeed. The focus of these two classes is to help transition these students to college readiness. College Success Strategies focuses on helping the students learn how to succeed in the following areas:

  • Studying
  • Testing
  • Budgeting
  • Managing time
  • Taking notes
  • Being healthy
  • Asking for help
  • Using the library
  • Engaging in class discussions
  • Knowing where to go on campus for different needs

During fall semester, I taught three sections of this Learning Community. The three classes had 35 students total, who varied in all imaginable ways. They brought such diverse ideas and energies to the classes. In the classes, the students got into groups of two to four and were given three to five alumni to contact.

As a class, we worked on our initial emails and our lists of questions. Chris Hayes and Rachel Marzahn from the marketing department came to class to help my students with the nuts and bolts of interviewing. They worked with the students to help them understand how to best get the most out of the in person interviews with good set up. Chris gave them examples of finished products and walked them through his process. Rachel gave great tips on how to video the interviews and think about the final product throughout.

With Chris and Rachel’s visit fresh on our minds, the students were tasked to send out their initial emails to the alumni. This is where the adventure really began! Some students never mentioned they were from Inver Hills; some students did not send the script created; a few students didn’t get around to sending the initial emails until a month later.

It was EXHAUSTING! It was also so rewarding to hear the excitement as the responses started to come in. The students began scheduling the interviews and getting ready for the next steps.

Let me take a moment to tell you the story of Brandon and Ade. These two students are engineering majors and very committed to being successful in college. They partnered with Fuad, who is an engineer in San Francisco. They set up a phone interview. On the day of the interview, they were struggling to figure out which time zone the interview would take place. They were so nervous. The next class meeting, they came in excited about the interview. Fuad offered to mentor them as they go forward.

Read Ade and Brandon’s Interview with Fuad

Each class had stories that brought out strong moments of learning. In my evening class, Buffy was desperate to connect with a fellow early childhood educator. She reached out to Zach. Due to Zach’s busy schedule, she was only able to get a little bit of information. This led to Buffy having to overcome fears to contact other people to get information to fill in Zach’s story. The final product shows Buffy’s love of teaching and excitement over the connection.

Read Buffy’s interview with Zach

Three students, Sydney, Emma and Nakia (Kia), interviewed two different alumni. They wanted to video them and were very committed to this idea. The first interview had great info, but the alumna was chewing gum the entire time. The second interview did not want to be on camera. This led to them trying to figure out, with no prior experience taking videos or editing them, how to produce a video that was befitting the anniversary celebration.

What they really created was a tight-knit bond of friendship and support where they are actively involved in each other’s lives. They learned what they can do and accomplish if they lean on each other. Here is their story in their own words:

Our alumni interview project

by Emma, Sydney and Nakia (Kia)

Sydney walked into class on the first day and saw a familiar face. Emma and Sydney went to school together way back in middle school. They began to work together and met a new friend, Kia.

We decided to become a group for the 50th Anniversary Alumni Project. Never thought us girls would be so close. We work together on everything! We were stressing and a little nervous to do a video for the project, but we really thought a video would be the best choice.

We had no clue how to edit. We ended up spending hours on editing. But we knew we had to get it done. We weren’t going to give up. We emailed Amy when we were in panic mode. But we made it through and are so happy!

The first woman we interviewed was named Nicolette. We sent her the interview questions a week before the interview. The second woman we interviewed was an amazing person truly. Her name was Jennifer. She told us amazing and inspiring stories about her past and going to Nursing school, well going through so much. She gave us great answers and went into great depth. This was a cool project to be able to do and knowing it’s done now and the stress is out the door—it feels so good!

In that same class, I had another group of three who worked on their project together. They interviewed Paul David, an HR specialist. I got the chance to meet Paul at the alumni event, and he spoke of how he enjoyed the encounter with these three students.

Tsion, a member of the group, put it this way: “This experience was great. Paul actually taught me a lot about Inver Hills, and how it’s a great college and there are a lot of people that can help you. I was actually thinking of transferring, but not anymore because Paul said if you just asking for help, college support staff will help you all the way and tell you what courses to take within your major. Paul also told me that seeking advice helped him get ready when he transferred to a university. I feel like it will also help me.”

Read the group’s interview with Paul David

In my evening class, I had a group of four students, Hannah, Osama, McKenzie and Athena, who did a video interview with an alumnus, Andrew Gillquist (see below). The part of this story I want to focus on is how this class became a beautiful family around this project. They took care of each other and really banded together. As is prone to happen, life got in the way for two classmates to complete the course. That didn’t stop them from supporting each other in and out of the classroom. This class will be one to remember.

Throughout this process, I have learned so much and watched these students rise to occasions I didn’t think were possible. And they did so with a fun attitude and an open mind. I have been teaching for almost 20 years now, and this project gave me more stress and was more rewarding than any other project I have assigned.

I hope these students take the lessons from these alumni into their college education. I’m looking forward to adding them to the list of alumni for the 60th Anniversary of Inver Hills.

With great pride,

Dr. Amy Zsohar
Communication and Interdisciplinary Faculty
Inver Hills Community College
Amy and her students hosted an Alumni Reveals & Reception Monday evening, December 9, 2019, in The Lounge in the College Center on campus.

View event photos on the Inver Hills Flickr album:

50th Anniversary Alumni Stories

Learn more about Communication Studies at Inver Hills by contacting:

Shiloh Gideon-Sjostrom
Communication Studies Faculty

Amy Zsohar, PhD
Communication Studies and Interdisciplinary Faculty
LGBT+ Club Sponsor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *