Student Stories

I met Adam Carter when I was working at the University of Maryland in the student-run transit system, Shuttle-UM. Adam, an undergraduate student studying political science, was from Rhode Island and was very proud of his middle/working class Puerto Rican heritage and his experiments with bold irreverence to all things authoritarian. He served as a student manager in Maryland’s long-standing student-run transit system which at the time served over a million passengers each year. As a student manager he was one of eight responsible for supervising a group of about 20 student bus drivers and managing all charter bus requests.

Adam became special to me almost instantaneously. He was an ally in my efforts to provide student development centered training and workshops while simultaneously critiquing the efforts among his peers. We worked at desks crammed next to each other in a trailer housing 10 people on the site of the main bus “terminal” which included the dispatch office, employee lounge, fleet parking, and maintenance bays located on the edge of campus.

I frequently observed choices and behavior that indicated his youth and immaturity and in the next moment, an action that reflected his wisdom and potential. He enjoyed introducing me to his favorite current music group, an uphill battle given my lack of music literacy. He also enjoyed “swearing like a sailor” and using a lot of dismissive bravado prior to stepping up and embracing responsibilities. He was a bridge between hard-working student employees and regular staff managing this significant operation. While we really had very little in common, I wholly appreciated him and his journey. The photo accompanying this story is an image of Adam and me at “shift pick” — the time-honored public selection of driving shifts. Given our unplanned matching outfits we switched nametags for the day; although I could never have garnered the same response from the 100 plus student employees that he did at that meeting. Wendy Endress. Adam Carter

At Maryland I was exploring students’ self-efficacy for leadership in my graduate study. I wanted to better understand how co-curricular experiences, student employment, or academic coursework could have a stronger impact on students’ belief in their ability to engage in effecting change. I found Adam to be a critical thinker with charisma and a strong capacity to influence his peers. He also struggled with the risk taking that leadership requires. My thinking about self-efficacy for leadership was informed by Adam and the students I worked with at Shuttle-UM. I am grateful for the two plus years with which I worked with Adam Carter.  Students who hold a place in my heart and memory are those who let me in and challenged me in profound ways. Adam passed away from leukemia shortly after he graduated or I suspect I would have a powerful postscript to share.

Submitted by Wendy Endress, Region V Awards Chair & Vice President for Student Affairs at The Evergreen State College

I believe that in every interaction lies the ability to touch another’s life, in ways neither person can predict.

About a month ago, I had a student walk in to see me at 4:50pm on a Friday evening.  I was counting down the minutes until 5:00pm, because I had dinner reservations at 5:30pm with friends. I try hard to balance my professional and personal life, and often in Student Affairs, that balance becomes distorted. Having spent the previous night in the office until after 7:00pm, I was ready to get out of the office on time, and I looked at this student as a disturbance.  I am ashamed to admit it, but I was rather annoyed that this student was coming in 10 minutes before our office closed for the weekend to meet with me, without even scheduling an appointment. With that pit of annoyance in my stomach, I walked out front to greet the student. He had some questions about his resume and job search, which I helped him with. He continued asking me questions, and realizing I was not going to make my dinner reservations, I sat and listened, allowing myself to be fully present. After sitting with him for several more minutes, and hearing about his experiences, I came to learn that he is a refugee student who recently graduated from the University of Utah. He shared his story with me, a story that brought me to tears, a story that dissipated any annoyance I may have felt merely ten minutes earlier, a story that touched my life.

As I listened to him speak, I realized that I wanted to do more, that I needed to do more, to help students like him, who may not have the resources that many students do. Upon leaving that night an hour late to dinner, I could not get this student’s experience out of my mind, and could not help feeling like there is more I need to do. Later that night, I began researching resources for refugees in the area, and after learning of the International Rescue Commission, I reached out about opportunities to get involved. Shortly after, I began volunteering as an Employee Mentor, where I serve as a resource to a refugee for 6 months, helping them find, receive, and keep employment.  It is a small thing I am doing, but one I am most proud of.

His story changed mine, and all I did was allow myself to listen.  Everyone has a story, and those stories have the power to create change if we only listen.

Submitted by Kelly Dries, Region V Student Affairs Fundraising and External Relations KC Representative and Career Counselor at the University of Utah


  1. Deneece Huftalin says:

    I love these! Thanks to Wendy and Kelly for sharing. What gifts we receive from students in this profession!

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