Discovering Identity through A Living Learning Community

Authored By: mknutson 01/15/2020

Sam Kreps“For my Capstone presentation, I shared about my identity crisis,” said Sam Kreps, a senior at University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR). “I’m Jewish and Cuban but beyond that, until recently… I didn’t really know who I was.”

When she started as a freshman at UMR, Kreps thought she wanted to be a dentist. Then being a physician seemed more appealing but after her first day of calculus, she knew that she would not be successful in that career. After several life-changing experiences and the trip of a lifetime to Israel, she knew that part of her identity is to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. 

This past December, Sam presented her identity discoveries in her Capstone. But her discoveries didn’t come without major internal struggles. 

“On top of not knowing what I wanted to be, I didn’t know who I was,” Kreps says. “I was struggling with my sexuality.”

The journey of defining herself came the summer between her junior and senior year when Kreps had the opportunity to go on a Birthright trip to Israel, a 10-day free journey for all Jewish young adults. This particular trip was LGBTQ+ specific, meaning she was surrounded by other young adults who were also Jewish and LGBTQ+.

“Being in that environment allowed me to feel 100% myself for the first time in my life,” Kreps says.

“When I returned, I had more clarity about that aspect of my life; the trip helped me see who I was and upon returning, I was able to tell people that I’m bisexual.”

It seemed with that realization other paths were also made clearer. Upon her return to UMR , Kreps knew she wanted to work as a nurse practitioner. In Sam’s junior year, she took HUM 3712, The Contemplation of Resilience, Wellbeing and Mental Health through Creativity, a creative writing course allowing her to spend time with patients in the Generose psychiatric unit at Mayo Clinic, helping them work on their creative writing as she worked on hers.  This opportunity allowed her to discover that a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner was what she really wanted to pursue. 

Much of what shaped Kreps’ identity at UMR was participating in a Living Learning Community. She is a pioneering member of a Living Learning Community (LLC), more specifically, Health CORE. Health CORE is a community that supports the successes of underrepresented students who will transform the health care field with their distinct perspectives while helping to close the health care disparity gap for underrepresented students. Kreps is part of the first cohort of Health CORE students to graduate this spring. 

“Health CORE students in this first cohort inspire me!” says Lori J. Carrell, Chancellor of UMR. “As trailblazers, they have lived, learned and led together - elevating the quality of the entire UMR community with their diverse perspectives and commitment to each other.” 

“Sam's caring and uplifting attitude makes others love being around her,” says Abdirahman M. Ikar, Student Success Coach and CORE Coordinator. “The discussions she facilitates help foster an open and supportive environment for first-year LLC students. At our farewell Health CORE gathering, students showed their appreciation for her endless support as they journeyed through trying academic and personal situations. Sam is known to be that one person you can talk to about anything.”

“Health CORE gave me a second family,” Kreps says, “they made college so much more welcoming and more fun. We worked to make a community where we could be successful. This support and success played a large role in getting me to graduation.” 

Kreps encourages current UMR students to get involved within their communities, whether they are in an LLC or otherwise. “The more you put into your community, the more you’re going to get out of it,” Kreps says. “Being more involved made me feel more part of the community, it made me feel more welcome.”

Kreps looks forward to graduating this spring and is in the process of applying to graduate schools. In the meantime, she will continue leading a creative writing course through an internship with patients at Generose.

“When Sam and the other Health CORE students cross the stage to shake my hand at commencement, it's going to be a marvelous (and emotional!) moment,” says Carrell.

“As they move on to the next stage of their journeys, I want these students to know that they have been teachers as well. We've been listening. We've been learning. And we'll use their experiences to enhance the lives of future UMR students in the years to come.”