More than a decade ago, as part of ACT’s 50th anniversary celebration, ACT established the ACT Scholars Program, as part of a pair of endowments to nurture the academic talent of graduate and community college students at the University of Iowa and Kirkwood Community College. These two institutions share ACT’s passion for helping all students achieve their ambitions in college and their careers. ACT emphasized scholarships for students from populations for which the cost of higher education could have presented a significant barrier to college access and accomplishments.
We will feature ACT Scholar blogs regularly, to hear their stories and learn about their college-going journeys. Learn more about the ACT Scholar program.
What was your motivation for going to college and earning a degree?
I grew up in a home and community that valued educational pursuits. I remember often being encouraged to engage around school events, whether it be curricular or co-curricular. What helped my growth immensely was the encouragement I received that came from supportive family, colleagues, and friends. In essence, I wanted to pursue higher education! Once in college, I fell in love with the environment. Going to a small liberal arts institution provided me ample opportunities to develop close-knit relationships with peers, faculty, administrators, and more. I thoroughly enjoyed the environment (while acknowledging its shortcomings) and wanted to continue pursuing my education in graduate school.
What are you currently studying? What degree will you earn?
I am currently a first-year Ph.D. student in Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) at the University of Iowa’s College of Education. I earned a Bachelor of Arts and Science in business and communication, along with a minor in writing from Aquinas College; and, earned a Master of Arts in higher education with a concentration in institutional research from the University of Michigan.
Who inspired or supported you in your college-going journey?
My family has been hands down my biggest support system throughout my collegiate journey. They have always been engaged in my studies, interests, goings-on, and more, which helped me really find my place in this field. Pursuing three degrees at three different institutions has meant developing completely different networks in each space. Despite the challenges that it has brought, my family has been a constant presence through it all, for which I am immensely grateful.
What advice would you give to a college student today?
I would offer this to college-going students: Try (and an emphasis on try, as we all are imperfect in our efforts) to take each day, lesson, assignment, anything you encounter, with a grain of salt. You will face myriad opinions, perspectives, facts, figures, and more during your time in higher education. Try and take it all with a grain of salt, as it may help you in pressing pause when developing your own ideas, helping you be more thoughtful in that process.
What does the ACT Scholarship mean to you? How does it affect your college-going journey?
Simply put, the ACT Scholarship has granted me the bandwidth to engage with my passions in higher education during my doctoral journey! Without this support, it would be difficult and/or nearly improbable for me to do so, and I am fortunate to be able to go after my goals with ACT’s support.
What goals have you set for yourself?
My goals as a first-year doctoral student are simple: Make connections and get my feet in doors. I have thoroughly enjoyed moving to Iowa and starting this new leg of my education and professional journey and have made invaluable connections already. The individuals in my program, both students, candidates, and faculty alike, have welcomed me whole-heartedly and allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of my interests. These include quantitative methods, the intersection between public health and higher education, and institutional research.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I am thankful for ACT in funding my education here at the University of Iowa. Without their support, I would not have had the same opportunity to study alongside the amazing people in the HESA program and learn even more about where I want my career to go.
Sam Kaser (he/him) is a first-year Ph.D. student in higher education and student affairs at the University of Iowa’s College of Education. Prior degrees include a Bachelor of Arts and Science in business and communication, with a minor in writing from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan; also, a Master of Arts in higher education with a concentration in institutional research from the University of Michigan.