By Mallory Raber, Contributing Writer
I had the privilege of interviewing a bubbly, self-driven, and inspiring McKendree alumna known across campus as Dr. Sara Trask, PhD. Anyone who has taken a class with Dr. Trask can agree that she is all-in when it comes to teaching her students how to improve their communication. All of her course content is geared to prepare students for success in their personal and professional life.
As an inspired student who wishes to spread light and positively impact as many people as Dr. Trask has, I cannot help but to wonder, why? Why is she so passionate? Without hesitation, Dr. Trask credited two of her previous professors at McKendree, Dr. Gordon and Dr. Haskins. “Both individuals could be anywhere and still be talking about what was being taught in their classroom. Their passion radiated and ultimately rubbed off on me.”
Dr. Trask furthered her ‘why’ in boldly stating, “I find it really hard to not be passionate about something that truly impacts your life in any way you shake it, whether it be personal or profession, you are communicating with others. Context that we read in class can really make or break you being successful in your personal and professional life. What you learn is truly applicable to how you perform and how you succeed.”
“Being a McKendree alumna, I get it.” says Dr. Trask. “Not only do I have a great appreciation to teach at the institution I once learned in, but I want to believe that I can form a deeper connection with students because I truly have been where all of them have been. Ames? Lived it. Bogey bus? Lived it. Climbing the three flights of stairs to class? Lived it.”
Something that really stood out to me during our interview is the substantial soft spot that Dr. Trask has in her heart for McKendree. She has taught at two other universities and always caught herself comparing them to McKendree. For example, when she took a previous teaching position at a small university, she looked at it as McKendree, and even told people, “it’s as close to McKendree as I am going to get.” She continued. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I truly would teach here. It’s a blessing and a curse.”
Dr. Trask did stress that although there are multiple benefits of teaching at the same school she learned at, there is a cost. And the price is ultimately a sense of constant pressure. Pressure to live up to the standards that have been set and to live up to the big family aspect that McKendree preaches.
After the ‘why?’, I wanted to unpack the ‘how?’. How does Dr. Trask create such relatable and applicable content for each class? She answered this question with a smile. “I’m always trying to create a class so that is truly geared for everyone to understand and apply in the real world. I want to teach so that those people who did not read still know what we are talking about and those students who did read still feel challenged.”
Showing her vulnerable self, Dr. Trask expressed her passion to relating her personal experiences to the class. “If I’m standing and asking for all of my students to give me experiences and I’m just a talking head they are never going to want to share with me and so I disclose probably more than what people say that I should because of the material that I teach.”
Dr. Trask continues to amaze me with her sunshine colored ray of passion that she radiates. It is truly contagious. If you do not believe me, just look below.