Hello! I’m Ashley Mudra, a volunteer for Wayfinding Academy. I’m excited to share a new series we’re starting: interviews with the people behind this movement (maybe you!).
So many amazing people are working hard (many for free) to make Wayfinding Academy a reality. WHY? What drew them in and sparked action? What are their personal experiences? Why do they care? We’ll dive into their stories on our forthcoming blog and newsletters.
I’ll start us off!
I grew up in Oregon City, Oregon and was homeschooled through age 16 when I started taking classes at the community college near our house. I was a first-generation college student, as were most of my friends, so college just wasn’t a topic of conversation with my parents or peers growing up. I decided to go because I wanted to be “successful.” I had no idea what success meant to me, but it seemed like the thing to do if you wanted to matter.
Well, I flunked out... twice. From 16 to 26 I struggled through a wasteland of confusion, self-doubt, and feeling like a failure (10 years!) before I finally received a Bachelor's Degree in General Science–a degree I didn't even want, only got because I was desperate to finish, and have not used. And, of course, I'm still paying my student loans.
This is almost laughable to me now. It didn’t have to be so hard!
I wish someone had told me to do an internship. I wish someone, anyone, had told me it was okay to not know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I felt I had walked in the front door on my first day of college already a failure. I didn’t make many friends because I was too embarrassed they might find out how much I was struggling.
It's only in the last couple years I've put to rest the isolating lies of "I'm not smart enough" and "not good enough" –beliefs I gleaned largely from my university experience. This is sad–I should’ve had the opposite experience. I should’ve asked for some damn help! I should’ve been offered some damn help.
I know it's not this hard for everyone and I take responsibility for ways I could have made it better, but I think higher education is promising us a lot, while offering us less and less and charging us more and more.
I want the Wayfinding Academy to succeed because I want students to know they matter even if they don’t know what they want to do with their lives. I want to help create a new kind of higher education where students don’t feel how I felt–like another piece of paper to grade. I’m passionate about supporting and guiding students as they explore, because we’re all in this together. We’re all just exploring. And that has been one of the most important lessons I've learned in life.