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Exploring Every Avenue In the Name of Empowerment

December 21, 2017

Portrait of Abby Koshollek

Portrait of Abby Koshollek
Photo by Jacob Van Blarcom, CLAgency student

Senior Abby Koshollek arrived at the University of Minnesota with the ultimate goal of becoming a senator. With her interest in government, she took on a double major in communication studies and political science with a minor in leadership. “I picked my degrees by asking, “what do senators need?” and that’s political science, leadership, and communication... But I feel like I’ve learned so much more from that than I thought I would.”

The Department of Communication Studies and the College of Liberal Arts have provided her with the means to explore and refine her interests in democracy, rhetoric, and ethics through on-campus leadership, while providing work and educational experiences in Minnesota and abroad. 

To prepare for the workforce, Koshollek has actively networked with colleagues and faculty to land several invaluable experiences researching and interning. 

Get Ready, Get Set, Go Around the World

She began her undergraduate career as a political science research assistant studying early childhood education policy, followed by an internship in the office of former US Senator Al Franken. “I thought I was on this trekked political path, and then when I realized I didn’t like working in elective politics, I had to explore other avenues.” 

Koshollek took her interests abroad by studying in Greece with the communication studies department. “We studied democracy and rhetoric, so it was perfect because it was all of my interests combined into one experience.” She credits the faculty and staff of the Department of Communication Studies for their ability to inspire students about subjects with their own enthusiasm.  

“Dr. John Nordin, the professor I studied abroad with, has a genuine love for Greece and anything related to ancient Greek rhetoric,” said Koshollek. “He truly cares about the things he is involved in, and his perspective made me want to care about it when I was there. Learning about Socrates in the places that he presented his speeches gave me a unique historical perspective. [It was an] opportunity to think critically about how we address communities of people within our ever-changing society.” 

She then spent a summer at the University of Havana completing a capstone project about the Cuban feminist movement, in which she developed her passion for gender equity and social justice.

Koshollek commends the Department of Communication Studies for individually preparing her for any career path she finds herself in. “Very literally, communication studies fosters skills in public speaking and writing, but under the surface level it has prepared me to be a philanthropist of sorts and think ethically and rationally about things,” Koshollek continues, “There’s no reason I can’t have opinions about things, but if I can’t substantiate my reasonings or make room for other people's opinions, I’m not going to get anywhere.”

Koshollek also spent a summer in Brazil working in international trade. This high-pressure experience in which she felt unprepared served as a useful stepping stone toward her current positions: as an intern for both the leadership minor (teaching assistant) and Find Your Power, a startup non-profit centered on women’s empowerment. 

Reflecting on Experiential Learning

“The things I’ve learned from the students in my class are that your projections do not always match what an experience is. I don’t know how else you can empower people without knowing who they are first, and I’m currently passionate about getting to know people on an individual level and learning about their experiences.” 

She sees both of these experiences as pointing her toward career options, in that she is able to empower others on both an individual and group level. Koshollek uses her knowledge of politics and communication in her teaching to assist her students on their own journeys through personal development and change-making. 

Koshollek believes that her dedication to diversifying her educational experience through traveling, interning, volunteering, and teaching has granted her the capacity to thrive in any career. She is self-assured in her readiness for a full-time career and has goals of one day working in an environment where she is able to both empower others and motivate direct change.

“[Communication studies] gives you this very broad spectrum of how humans interact and how to get along with other people,” Koshollek says, “and that’s super important because if you didn’t learn how to be a good person in your education I think you’ve failed.”

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.