Kat (Murphy) FraserMay 29, 2018
Kat (Murphy) Fraser is an academic advisor at Loyola University Chicago in the School of Communication, where she works with upper-division students as they navigate their way through college to their career and beyond. Kat graduated from Truman in 2011 and from Loyola University Chicago in 2015 with her M.Ed. in Higher Education. In her free time, Kat enjoys cooking, instagramming, playing with her pup Riggins, traveling with her husband Chris, and teaching indoor cycling.
What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?
What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?
I participated in SAB (Student Activities Board) my freshman year. I was very involved in Residence Life, serving as an SA (Student Advisor) and CC (Community Coordinator). I was also involved with the Student Ambassadors, Baptist Student Union, Phi Beta Lambda, and Lambda Pi Eta.
Did you go to grad school? If so, where? Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait? Why?
I went to grad school at Loyola University Chicago to get my M.Ed. in Higher Education. In college, I knew I wanted to work in student/academic affairs, but that’s not something you can major in. So I knew grad school was on the horizon, but I hadn’t planned to go right after graduating. Instead, I worked full time as a Residence Hall Director at Aurora University in Chicagoland for two years.
Waiting to go to graduate school was the best decision for me. I was able to apply my work experience to what I was learning in the classroom. Additionally, the residence life experience set me up for success in exploring other areas of higher education.
I often tell my students that graduate school is not the place to “find yourself.” While you’ll certainly learn more about yourself while there, the subject matter is so focused and it’s a huge investment, you really need to be sure it’s what you want to do.
What was your first job after graduation?
I worked as a Residence Hall Director at Aurora University in Aurora, IL. I managed an all-freshman, co-ed residence hall.
What work do you do/What are you doing now?
Currently, I serve as the Academic Advisor in the School of Communication at Loyola University Chicago. I work with juniors, seniors, and transfer students as they discern their path through and after college. I find it somewhat surreal that I work with communication students on a daily basis—it’s fun to connect what they’re learning to my own educational background.
How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?
Let me count the ways!
A degree without communication and critical thinking skills will get you nowhere. At Truman, I became a better problem solver, a more adept communicator, and a stronger advocate for myself and others. While I didn’t particularly love taking Economics or Agricultural Science, I put in the hard work to push through.
I learned that going to office hours was the best thing you could do—whether you were having a hard time in a class or excelling. I learned to ask questions—lots of them! I learned how to work in a group. No, group work in college isn’t exactly how it works in the “real world,” but the skills learned in group work definitely apply to the working world: conflict management, negotiation, problem-solving, small group communication, perspective-taking, and so many more!
Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?
I really hated my Media Writing class. I just knew I didn’t want to work in journalism, so I thought it was a waste of time. How wrong was I? I learned new ways to write, how to communicate the most important information first, and to always, always meet deadlines!
What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman?
I am most proud of my work as a Community Coordinator in Residence Life. This type of position is generally restricted to graduate students or professionals at other institutions. I am still humbled by the amount of responsibility I was entrusted with. In this position, I supervised student staff, ran meetings, chaired committees, and participated in University matters at a professional level. I truly believe this position set me up for a strong start in my career.
Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?
I’m going to be honest. Truman was my LAST choice. I just thought public schools were so beneath me (shudders – I don’t know where that idea came from—perhaps too many episodes of Gilmore Girls?). But when it came down to decision time, Truman was the best deal. At Truman, those preconceived notions were shattered; I couldn’t be more satisfied with my college choice.
There’s something special about Truman. It’s a community of nerds and of people who want to make a difference in the world. Going to school in a small town means getting creative with how you have fun. Small class sizes mean getting lots of attention from professors. A liberal arts education means learning how to apply your skill set to many different subjects. At Truman, you can study abroad, do an internship, and even create your own major. Your education is very much your own at Truman, and that’s what makes it great!
What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?
Go visit your advisor every semester! As an academic advisor, I have to say this, but I truly mean it! Your advisor is not just there to help you register for classes. They are there to coach you through your journey in college—and beyond. I still keep in touch with Prof. Don Krause and am still grateful for his support and encouragement!
Study abroad if you can! There are tons of scholarships, fellowships, grants, and loans out there to make it possible. My time abroad in Newcastle, Australia was the most transformative time in my life!
What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?
If you’re interested in higher education, but don’t want to be a professor, find some way to connect to someone who works in the field. This could be an admissions counselor, your Hall Director, your freshman advisor, or your career counselor. Ask them about their path, graduate school, their functional area, their resume, and more. Higher ed isn’t something you can study in undergrad, so get involved in student organizations or in offices on campus. Apply to be an SA (student advisor) or work the hall desk. Apply to SAB (Student Activities Board) or work in the Center for Student Involvement. Run for leadership positions in your student organization, volunteer to plan an event. Also know that grad school is pretty much essential to advancing in higher education, but you don’t necessarily need to go right away!
What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?
I love the hustle and bustle of city life, but sometimes I miss the slower pace of Kirksville: moseying down to Woody’s, riding my bike through campus, the friendly workers at the Post Office. I also miss the beautiful campus, hanging on the quad, and getting lunch in the cafeteria with my friends (and the abundant cereal choices).
What tag line would you create for the COMM department at Truman?
“Cultivating bright minds for a bright future.”
If you could come back to Truman and teach a class for a semester, what would be its title and what would it be about?
Not that I have any authority on this area, but I’d love to teach a class about the rhetoric of space. I think so much is communicated by space, architecture, and design. It’s often a topic of discussion in the field of higher education: from the design of dorm rooms to the layout of offices—I’d love to explore that!
What did we not ask that you think is important for people to know?
Your time at Truman is so precious. I don’t think the time you’re in college needs to be the best of your life—I hope life gets better as it goes on—but it is significant. Take the class that sounds interesting but “doesn’t count” toward your major. Drive to Columbia at midnight just to get Steak and Shake with friends. Go to the train bridge to feel the wind on your face and your spirit lifted. Fail at something, then get the help you need to do better next time.
If you would like to hear more of Kat’s story, you can follow her on Instagram.