Grad Emily Robinson discusses her treasured experiences at LU

Emily Robinson, a first-generation graduate with a bachelor’s in English and a minor in communications with a teaching certification, discusses her experiences at Lamar University — from her first day of class to walking the stage at graduation with honors on Friday and what she’s learned along the way.

Q: What made you decide to come to LU?
A: A Lamar University recruiter, Tyler Pate, came to my high school during the second semester of my senior year. His energy and excitement for Lamar is what made me excited. I did not know what I wanted for my future, but I knew that he made Lamar seem like a place that I would want to call home. After taking a tour, I knew that this was the perfect place for me. It was far enough away from home for me to have freedom, but close enough for frequent visits if needed. It was the perfect size campus and was beautiful! 

Q: Can you tell me about your first day as a freshman?
A: My freshman year started with Hurricane Harvey. My mom dropped me off in the residence hall after moving me in and I was beyond excited. I had no nerves; I remember feeling relaxed and ready to start this chapter of my life. I gave myself a few tours of the campus and worked on memorizing routes to my classes and the names of all of the buildings. 
When classes officially started, I spent the morning in the dining hall playing cards and trying to meet new people. I left D-hall 20 minutes before my class was set to begin and walked slowly; I stopped for anyone who was at the campus maps or seemed lost so that I could point them in the right direction. My first class was College Algebra with Dr. Gary Brice. I sat down in the middle seat of the middle section and started to unpack my notebook ... that's when the nerves set in. I wasn't worried about the class itself because I have always been good at math. I was suddenly realizing that this was it. This was college.
To start the class, Dr. Brice danced down to the front of the room, stood silently for a few seconds facing us and then told a joke. I was hooked. College was going to be a blast.

Q: What are some of the organizations you’ve been involved in?
A: I have been involved in Lamar University's Big Event since Spring of 2018. The Big Event is Lamar's largest community service project; it occurs every year during the spring semester (usually in April). I started as a committee member, then worked my way up. I have been the student director for the past two years.
I wasn't involved in many other clubs or organizations, but I was involved with the University through the positions I have held on campus. 
I was a peer mentor for Cardinal Communities from August 2018 through December 2021. (This is with Cardinal Communities under the STARS Office.)
I was an orientation leader during the summer of 2018, then a student orientation coordinator from August 2018 through August 2021 and now I am a student director until the end of Week of Welcome this upcoming August. (This is with the Department of New Student and Leadership Programs, or NSLP).

 Emily Robinson
Q: What has been your proudest/favorite moments during your time here?
A: This is such an insane question. It is so hard to summarize my favorite moments on this campus because there have been so many and they are all so different. 
My mask design was chosen for the Mask Design Competition that the university held, so they distributed hundreds of masks that I designed, which was so cool!
My short story was published in "Pulse," Lamar University's Literary Magazine.
My friends and I would play tag and sardines and host movie nights in the Galloway Business Building late at night.
I met President Taylor on his first day on campus and challenged him to Ping Pong. We played a game of ping pong together in the Reaud Honors College!
I won multiple intramural sports championship shirts — volleyball, flag football and indoor soccer. Plus, I lost some intramural sports championships — outdoor soccer and basketball. 
I helped rebrand the orientation leaders into CO Team (the Cardinal Orientation Team) and I designed the logo that we still use to this day!
That is all I can think of at the moment, but I'm sure some friends will be upset that I didn't mention a few other embarrassing moments.

Q: What does being inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa mean for you?
A: I was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa, which is a nationally recognized leadership honors society. This means that I have been recognized as one of the outstanding leaders of Lamar University. 
I think this is insanely cool because it recognizes that leadership is more than what you do in the classroom, although that is important as well, but it is how you connect with and guide others. Leadership is more than barking commands or taking control of a situation; leadership is guiding others to reach a common goal by utilizing the strengths of everyone on the team.

Q: What have been your biggest challenges?
A: Besides paying for college, I think that my biggest challenge was staying focused on my degree. I'm not going to lie, for a short time, I was willing to give up. I could not see the benefit of what I was doing in the classroom. With my roles on campus that I did not need a degree for, I was able to positively impact the lives of hundreds of people, from students to family members. I was struggling to complete assignments or pay attention in class; I lost sight of the goal in front of me. I had to reevaluate why I was here and what my goals were so that I could focus on the things that truly mattered. I eventually found a way to balance my academics with the joy that helping others brought me. 

Q: How did it feel to graduate?
A: Amazing! Waiting in those chairs was almost torture. I was on the edge of my seat and making myself nervous for no reason. My biggest fear: tripping. 
I know myself well, so I wore sneakers instead of heels, but I have a tendency to trip over air. When they called my name, I didn't even hear it. 
I was distracted by the voice in my head telling me to smile and keep putting one foot in front of the other. What really calmed me down was when President Taylor mouthed the words "Ping Pong" to me with a laugh. I remembered that this was supposed to be fun. We took our picture, and just like that, I was done. An official graduate. 

Q: What does being a first-gen graduate mean for you and your family? 
A: It was amazing for me to get to go to college let alone graduate. My family has always struggled with money and making sure that we had food on the table. This degree means that I will not have that same worry. All of those long nights of studying and stressing will be worth it because they get to see me walk across that stage. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I started in August as a student director with the Department for New Student and Leadership Programs. I am going to continue this until the end of Week of Welcome in August. I am in charge of all parent and family programming at orientation; I helped create the schedule of the day, I selected the giveaways, I designed and created the newsletter "Under Our Wing" (a new issue is released every semester and one is distributed every summer at orientations), I run all of the parent and family social media and I will be giving two presentations at every orientation session. Our goal is to open the door of communication between the families and their student and to make sure that families feel connected to the university. 
I was recently accepted to the Disney College Program, so after Week of Welcome, I will be moving to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I actually have no idea what I will be doing yet, so it is going to be one big adventure! According to the acceptance letter, I will find out what my role is and what I will be doing only two weeks before my arrival. The program is from August to February. When the program ends, I plan to move back to Texas and work as a high school English teacher. 

Q: How do you think Lamar University will contribute to your future success?
A: Lamar University has helped me become the person that I am today, there is absolutely no question about that. Brandie Van Zanden, the director of Department of New Student and Leadership Programs, has been the most influential person in my life. She has taught me the importance of balancing social life with academics and balancing helping others and self-care. She has helped mold me into a leader that leads from the middle and recognizes the importance of both group collaboration and individual strengths and needs. Brandie is amazing because she helped me to discover my values and passions while encouraging me to do my best; she taught me that it is okay to feel accomplished and proud of myself, it is okay to fail, and it is okay to ask for help. 
Lamar University has connected me with the peers that have made me into a better person and has provided me with experiences that I will forever cherish. 
My successes as well as my failures have prepared me to connect with and guide my future students to their own, amazing path. 

Q: Anything else you'd like to add?
A: Peck 'em, Cards!