Graduation Student Speaker: Kristin Jantzie

Kristin Jantzie was one of the student speakers at the Penn State World Campus Graduation Celebration for fall semester. Here are the remarks she shared.

Good evening, everyone. Thank you for this opportunity to reflect and share my experience as a Penn State World Campus Student.

Although I spent countless hours in dance classes growing up, dreaming of performing in a show or being part of a dance company, another part of me has always been more practical — thinking, “What are you really going to do when you grow up?” Coming from a rural town in Alberta, Canada, I didn’t know if a person could actually make a living being a dancer, let alone how long a dance career might last. I thought for sure I would be ‘over the hill’ in the dance world by my early 20s.

As I finished high school, I received offers to dance for cruise lines and theme parks. My twin sister and I accepted positions at the Tokyo Disney Resort and left for Japan a few weeks after graduation. It was a great opportunity, but I know my dad, in particular, was concerned about me getting an education. Getting a degree was also important to me, given the volatility of making a living as a performer. In addition, I loved school and thought it was likely I would go to university after a gap year or two.

With the money I saved working in Japan, I enrolled in a 6-month dance-training program in New York City with no expectation to stay longer or to be cast in a show. In fact, initially I didn’t understand the appeal of living in New York City, with its tiny apartments, expensive rents, and crowded subways. Nevertheless, that was more than a decade ago, and I think it is safe to say that I am now officially a New Yorker — and my main ‘gig’ for the past 13 years has been performing with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.

My undergraduate academic career has lasted nearly as long as my dance career. In 2004, while I was working in Tokyo, I enrolled in my first undergraduate course through ‘distance’ learning. I think it was financial accounting or economics. It was important to me to take courses while I worked so that going back to school would not be intimidating after any time off. 

Technology has advanced quite a bit, and my early courses were nothing like my experience over the past few years at Penn State World Campus. My early courses included a mailed course packet and textbook, and I had 6 months to finish without any intermittent deadlines. My exams were taken at a testing center — and on paper! There were no discussion boards or opportunities to learn from others in the course. Those of us who had to cram to get weekly assignments in by Sunday at 11:59 p.m., or who felt vulnerable sharing ideas on discussion boards each semester, have to admit something. Sometimes we were fortunate to have those weekly targets moving us forward and to have those group projects collaborating with classmates.

I have been a student at Penn State World Campus since the summer of 2015. My career was going well, but I wanted to take whatever steps I could to make sure I had a backup plan in case of injury or lack of work. After completing the core courses, choosing my major was difficult because so many subjects and professions interested me. I chose business because I thought about ways that I might be able to leverage that knowledge and my experience as a performer to continue to work in the entertainment industry.

Although there were times when making the commitment to my studies was stressful, completing my degree is a huge confidence boost for me. It represents not only what I have to offer a future employer, but also my potential to continue academics at the graduate level.  Despite the length of my academic journey or its potential impact on my next career move, I truly believe that no course or time spent learning has been a waste. Whether you will be transitioning to a new career or want to advance in your current field, I hope that all of you can reflect on your experience as learners and feel the same.

Penn State World Campus students who plan to graduate in spring 2019 and would like to attend our Graduation Celebration event are reminded to RSVP by April 26.