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Lessons learned at Sonoma State

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 | Posted by


Ashley Kimball and Kathleen Burns will have two very specific things in common this Saturday; they will graduate from Sonoma State University and will be student commencement speakers.

Facing a busy time with finals and preparations for graduation, the two still found the time to pass on valuable information to future and current students about some of the things they discovered during the college experience.

Ashley Kimball

Ashley Kimball

Kimball gained recognition within the county after being selected as Miss Sonoma County in 2013. During her time at SSU she has worked for Associated Students Productions and Associated Students as both an events programmer and publicity coordinator. After being selected as Miss Sonoma County she spent many hours working within the community in support of that position. She will graduate with a degree in theatre studies and plans to stay in the area after graduating.

With time spent as a Community Services Advisor, peer mentor, summer orientation leader and peer advisor in the academic advising office, Kathleen Burns had ample opportunity to grow her leadership skills and learn a lot about the workings of a college from a student’s perspective. She will graduate with a degree in psychology and will pursue a Master’s Degree in College Student Affairs at Rutgers University in New Jersey.


Kathleen Burns

Kathleen Burns


What is the most important lesson you learned at SSU?

“I learned that there will always be help for those who ask for it and that it is not a sign a weakness to ask for help but rather a sign of strength. I learned to utilize my support systems and how to be truly supportive to others who need it.” - Kathleen Burns

“That it is okay to express your opinion, even if it may not be in alignment with other people’s. I was challenged throughout my four years to engage in conversations about topics I would not normally speak aloud about and I appreciate being pushed to do so. I have developed my ability to speak my opinion and back up my statements with proof so that those who disagree May come to understand what my perspective is.”  - Ashley Kimball


What is one thing you would tell every incoming freshman about surviving college?

“Ask for help while your sinking, not drowning. Whether it be your understanding of a certain subject, dealing with a troublesome roommate, or even being unable to get the classes you need, do not wait until the length hour to ask for help. Issues can often times be taken care of at their start. When I started applying this to my ever arising issues in life I found them much more quickly solve when I was persistent in nipping them in the bud immediately by asking for help.”  - Ashley Kimball

“If I had the chance, I would tell every incoming freshman that college is not about surviving, if about thriving. In your first year, you have to decide whether you want just a degree or an actual education. You get to decide if you are going to skate by doing the minimum amount of work possible or if you are going to be an active participant in your education. Put in the effort now, I promise you won’t regret it. The “real world” doesn’t start when you graduate. It starts now, so take advantage of every opportunity college offers. Find your resources and use them. Everything you need is there if you make the effort to look for it.” - Kathleen Burns


What is something you wished you knew about college before you picked SSU?

“I only wish that I worried less about not knowing everything I would need to know about college. Every lesson I learned came at exactly the right time in the right way.”  - Kathleen Burns

“How important it is to be amongst a group of students that are not only at ease in their cultures, but in their beliefs as well. Growing up in Stockton, I was able to experience such an education, but I definitely feel that I missed a bit of that when I came to SSU. I appreciate the efforts being put forth to expand on diversity and multiculturalism on our campus and I look forward to it becoming even more apparent in coming years.” - Ashley Kimball


What would you like current juniors to know about the senior experience?

“Senioritis ain’t your typical Senioritis anymore because your final year is not all about the easy classes. It is about those last random requirements you were unable to fulfill thus far and it certainly scatters your brain all over the place. Keep pushing toward the end no matter how much the prospect of not having to be in school anymore excites you. You don’t want to throw your hard work down the tank just because a bout of Senioritis kicked in. You can do it!!” - Ashley Kimball

“It is so tempting to go through your senior year rushing everything, just wanting to be done with it all. I hear so many people say that they are “over it” and ready to just finish. Fight against that.  Because this is the year to do everything you said you were going to do. Make sure to make time for the people you really care about. Do the things you love doing. Go to your favorite spots in the area as much as you can. Your senior year is the time to make sure you don’t leave with any regrets.” - Kathleen Burns


Is there anything you didn’t get to do while at SSU that you wish you could?

“I wish I had studied abroad. It was one of my only goals for college and I didn’t take advantage of that opportunity. Other than that, I made sure I did everything on my list.” - Kathleen Burns

“Participating in Greek life had always been in the back of my mind, however spending a year with the Miss America Organization as Miss Sonoma County 2013 really satisfied that desire to belong to a sisterhood for me. I became a part of a sorority in a way, because of my personal philanthropy and the wonderful network of strong powerful beautiful women I came to know through being Miss Sonoma County.” - Ashley Kimball


Kimball and Burns were selected to speak at commencement by a committee of students and staff. After being nominated by either a student or faculty member, each wrote a speech that was then auditioned in front of the committee before being selected to be a graduation day speaker.

Commencement at Sonoma State University takes place on Saturday, May 10. For additional information see our story here.



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Nick Walden is our Rohnert Park + Cotati correspondent.
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