Compassion Outside the Classroom

Dramatic sunrise at Rowan University.

Starr Barker, a rising advertising major from Vineland, NJ (Cumberland County) shares this deeply personal first-person perspective on how a Rowan professor went above and beyond to help her face a challenging time in her life. Due to the subject matter, the editors have chosen to include campus photos instead of people photos in this story. 

A glimpse of Bunce's tower through flowers in bloom.

I transferred to Rowan University last spring. Transferring comes with many challenges, like making new friends, figuring out the campus layout, and connecting with professors. People face many challenges when coming to a new university, and I have had my share of them. Facing these challenges can become overwhelming, and suffocating, and can make you feel isolated. I was lucky enough to have a professor with who I connected with who helped me through the most challenging time of my life.

This semester for me was already challenging enough between six courses, commuting to campus, and changing my major. During the middle of the semester my life took a turn for the worse.

My stepmother was diagnosed with kidney cancer and everything changed.

I had to take on a new role in my household, helping my stepmother and father in any way that I could. This meant going to hospital visits, running errands, taking care of the home, and taking care of the pets. While all this was happening around me, I still had the responsibility of attending my classes and getting all of my work done. During this time I connected with one of my professors. She understood how hard things were becoming at home and in school. My professor understood the seriousness of my situation and understood that some things are more important than attending a lecture. I was able to communicate with her and not feel so isolated in my situation.

Purple flowers in bloom on campus.

Toward the end of March, only weeks after my stepmom’s diagnosis, my stepmother passed away from her cancer. I took a week off from school to try to come to terms with my new life without her. When I came back to classes, that same professor knew by looking at me that I was not okay. Because of the bond we had created during this hard time, I was able to talk to her about my personal life even more. I was able to open up to her and even literally cry in her arms, and she shed tears too. We shared our experiences with situations like these with each other and I found not only one of my favorite professors, but a new friend. Because of her, I didn’t feel so alone. I didn’t feel like the world around me was closing in so much. I was able to talk about my experience and feelings with ease. I am lucky to have a professor like her, one who cares about her students and shows it. 

Through this experience I learned so much about myself, the people around me, what it
means to listen, and how you can be there for someone in any way possible. I learned that
some professors are here for more than just giving us lectures and homework; some actually
care and are here to help us outside of the classroom. I was lucky enough to be placed in her
class and find a professor that goes above and beyond for her students. My professor didn’t
have to reach out, but I’m thankful she did.

Editor note: Our hearts go out to the Barker family. Please know that the Wellness Center is available for Rowan students in need of counseling, which includes grief counseling. Rest in peace, Mrs. Barker. 

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Written by: Starr Barker, rising senior advertising major
Story edited by: Valentina Giannattasio, rising junior dance and marketing double major

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Arianna Granda lays on the grass with musical scores surrounding her.

Today we feature Arianna Granda from Morris County, NJ. She is a rising senior studying Music Education with a vocal concentration and pursuing a CUGS in Jazz Performance. She currently serves as the president of both Rowan’s NAfME (National Association for Music Education) chapter and Profecy A Cappella group, as well as a leader of […]