Najelle Gilmore graduated from Alma College with a major in English. Up until her senior year, she was planning to major in biology and minor in English.
So, what caused her to change her academic plan mid-stream?
“I wanted to be a vet my whole life for no reason at all,” says Najelle. “I didn’t have animals. Yet, all through high school and up through senior year of college, majoring in biology was my plan. Then I had a couple of mentors who asked me what I wanted to do and made me question how I was supporting that goal.
“They asked me to look at how I was spending my free time, what my jobs were in and what sort of things I volunteered for,” she says. “I realized that it was all student affairs stuff like talking to students who were having problems and being a resident assistant and First Year Guide.”
After re-assessing her interests, Najelle changed her major to English. She plans to pursue a graduate education in student affairs at Kent State University. She also begins a graduate assistantship as an assistant resident center director at Case Western Reserve University.
“I am excited about getting an assistantship where I get to apply the things I learn in the classroom directly to students’ lives,” she says.
“One day I would like to be a college vice president or dean of students,” says Najelle. “I want to get to a level where I can help institute the big changes that reduce the hassles and leg work for students. I want to get ahead of problems rather than just fix them.”
During her time at Alma College, Najelle served as editor-in-chief of The Almanian, Alma’s student newspaper. She also was a member of the Kappa Iota sorority and completed an English thesis analyzing intersections of identities.
Her senior-year projects included an internship in leadership and working with Alma’s Title IX director to establish a bystander training program. As part of her internship, she provided leadership training for about 20 first-year students. Topics of discussion included values, goal setting, leadership styles and types of communication.
Najelle also spent time fly fishing as part of English Professor Robert Vivian’s “Fishing in Literature, Fishing in Michigan” spring term course.
“I learned a lot about myself during that experience,” she says. “There is a lot of time for reflection while standing in a river. Many of us get caught up in the fast pace here at Alma College. There is a lot to do and get involved with. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to reflect on what we have done, and I don’t think growth really happens until we reflect.”
Her Alma College mentors included Karl Rishe, vice president for student affairs, and student affairs staff Matt and Maria Jones, Lori Hick and Roxann Harrington, along with English faculty Matt Cicci and Laura von Wallmenich.
“They pushed me to look outside of myself and reflect,” she says. “That is what really made my Alma College experience — the people who intentionally or unintentionally asked questions or existed in a way that challenged what I already thought and believed. They caused me to constantly reevaluate my stance in life as I shifted or reaffirmed my beliefs. I think they are why I know who I am so well.
“The people at Alma are open to helping you learn and grow,” says Najelle. “I don’t think I would have gotten that, or come into contact with nearly as many people who foster that, outside of Alma College.”