Emily Carsten 2022 – Donald Erickson Scholarship recipient

Where are you from originally?
My family is from the Twin Cities area but I lived all over the US and outside of it growing up due to my dad being in the Marine Corps.

Where are you going to school, what is your major, and how do you intend to use your major?
I graduated from Bethel University as an Elementary Education major and I am now attending St. Catherine University to obtain my MLIS and SLMS with the goal of becoming a school librarian.

Tell us a little bit about your family and friends growing up, and any positive effect that they had on your willingness to work hard.
As the second oldest of six children and a military child, I was taught from a young age the importance of personal responsibility, looking out for others, and not taking anything for granted.  I believe these values helped me learn how to work hard and see the value in my work.  Growing up my dad was also the frugal type and taught me the importance of saving money and not spending on things I didn’t really need.  My parents helped me to open up a savings account when I was around 13 so that I could save up the money I earned from the babysitting and odd jobs I did for friends and family members.  I was definitely fortunate to grow up in a family that taught me about saving and hard work.

When was it that you realized that only you could be responsible for your future, and in what ways did you take control of your life after that?
I had the realization that I was responsible for my future at a fairly young age, around 8th or 9th grade, as my mom had started to suffer from a chronic illness.  I knew that my parents were not in a position to be able to be responsible for me and that in fact I would have to step up and help take responsibility for my younger siblings.  This definitely also meant that for me independence would look a little different than it might for other college students.  I ended up living at home during my undergraduate career and commuting to classes.  This way I was able to help with my mom’s medical care and assist with my siblings.  I did my best to balance my responsibilities in my family with my coursework and part time jobs, and learned a lot about time management and prioritization along the way.

Do you have any mentors who inspire you to work hard and chase your dreams today? If so, who, and what do they mean to you?
I don’t know that I have a mentor per se, however there are several teachers I had growing up as well as cooperating teachers I student taught under in college that have inspired me in the work I do with students.  I have learned strategies from them and when I have to navigate a difficult situation in my work, I will often ask myself what they would do.  I definitely would not be the educator I am today without these examples to look up to.

Are there any causes that you feel strongly about, that you would like to give back to someday, or that you’ve been able to help out so far?
I feel strongly about the necessity of high quality, equitable public education for all children which is why I have chosen the career path that I have.  I currently work as an educator at a public elementary school in the Twin Cities and would love to stay in the same district when I become a school librarian.

What keeps you motivated through long weeks of work and study?
My family, friends, pets, and hobbies such as arts and crafts keep me motivated.

Why do you think it’s important for today’s undergraduates to have a clear understanding of debt and finances?
Today’s undergraduates are put in a tough position with the cost of tuition being so high and with many jobs that pay a living wage requiring a college degree.  I can see how it might feel necessary for students to just take out loans and figure their money situation out later because their education is so important to them.  However, if students do not understand how loans work or do not think about how they are going to pay them off in the future, debt can be a serious problem that could prevent them from doing things they would like to in the future such as buying a house.  I also think our society needs to do a better job of educating young people about finances because I have met many young adults who never had a family member, teacher, or friend teach them about things like budgeting, saving, investing, debt, credit, taxes, and the like.