Leah Coyle is a Communication Studies major from Portland, Ore., who has also completed a minor in Humanities. As an outstanding graduate, we interviewed her on her WOU experience, including her favorite memories and the lessons she’s learned.
Are you a first-generation student? What has your experience been like?
I am the first member of my family to graduate from a university, and I consider myself beyond grateful and humbled by the love and support I have received from my family. I am proud to be representing all of them when graduation arrives, as I am here at WOU because of them. Right after I graduated from Parkrose High School, there was a moment I considered not going to college. My father was diagnosed with stage three colorectal cancer, but through it all, he pushed me to go along with the rest of my family. When times got difficult, I was given encouragement and care from friends, staff, and faculty, which helped me support my family all the more by allowing me to be there with my family and be successful in my academics. WOU was the balance I needed to prioritize my family and my academics, so I graduate proudly for them, and I am honored to be the first from a university.
Why did you choose WOU?
I chose WOU because I wanted to be close to home, to my family, but also because of the environment. WOU’s campus is small and beautiful, and it was exactly what I was looking for when I came on my first tour. I wanted to go to a smaller community to make more genuine connections and be somewhere where I felt like I mattered. It ended up being that and more, making a huge positive impact in my life, which led me to wanting to give back to WOU as much as I could.
What has been your favorite annual event? Why?
I always looked forward to the Holiday Tree Lighting, because I really enjoy the winter holidays and how it brings so many people together. Plus, I almost always had friends participating in the parade, so it was great to cheer them on.
What have some of your extracurriculars been? How did those impact your time on campus?
As soon as I came to WOU, I got involved with University Housing and loved it. I became a hall government member as a Hall Representative, and later an Activities Director. I later graduated from the Discover Leadership program, which was pretty fun. I represented WOU with a handful of other students at NACURH, a national conference. I became a Resident Assistant for three consecutive years, working in Landers Hall, Heritage Hall, and Arbor Park Apartments. I also had the privilege to become an Advisor for Governments and Activity Committees for two years. This last year I became a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary, where I was able to encourage service and recognition to our student body. With all of this, I found my passion for working with college students, which set me on a clear path of where I want my next chapter of life to be.
Who stands out from your time at WOU?
I had so many people who positively impacted my life that I met at WOU. When it came to finding more things I loved about our communication department and also making sure I stayed genuine, focused, and on track, Professor Paula Baldwin was that and so much more. When it came to finding self purpose, pride, and passion, my multiple supervisors, Joe Hahn, Rozina Lethe, Andy Daniels, and Karen Schlieder inspired me. When it came to finding true friendship, Lily Odegaard and Amanda Kelley were always there, and I know they will be there for life.
What do you love most about the major/minors you completed?
I originally came to WOU to become a high school English teacher, but I fell in love with our communication department fall term of my first year. People always ask, “What can you do studying communications?” The truth is [that] you can do anything, and I love the idea of being able to choose from many different career paths. I wanted a degree I could always use and find helpful at any point in my life, and I found that. I personally favor interpersonal and organizational communication, because I know I can use those skills in both my personal and professional lifestyles.
What has been your biggest achievement, success or accomplishment in college?
In the 2018-19 school year, I was nominated and selected as the Advisor of the Year by NRHH and as the Advising Resident Assistant of the Year, selected by peers and professional staff members. These were my two biggest accomplishments in college because being an advisor meant so much to me. I loved working with those students, and they inspired me to work harder and to be the best I could possibly be for them every day. I will always remember and cherish the Heritage Hall Government of 2018-2019.
What do you know now that you wish you knew your first term in college?
I wish I would have known how much change I should expect. College changed so many things in my life: my career path, my connections, my values, my perspectives, my standards, my passion. In reality, it changed me as a whole. I was afraid of this change, and I was left confused for quite some time, so I wish I could have told myself to accept what is and embrace what could be.