Graduate student inspired by her family
Published December 21, 2012
As an undergraduate student at NDSU, any complaints Tara Freed had about college being difficult were often short lived. Her father had a line that snuffed them immediately. “Well you can move home and scrape dead skunks off the road if you want.”
Now a highway department worker, he has had his share of tough jobs. He had not attended college, but was adamant his children would. His greatest desire was to put his children in the best possible position to achieve their career goals.
Freed is now a second-year master’s student in NDSU’s communication program. While the program challenges her, she embraces the opportunity to stretch herself. Early on, her parents instilled an unwavering work ethic and an understanding of the immeasurable value of a quality education.
“They always pushed education. They knew a college degree opened doors and wanted to give us every chance to pursue our passions,” Freed said of her parents, noting her mother had not attended college either.
Growing up in the small town of Bowbells, N.D., Freed saw her parents hold many jobs, always more than one at a time and never involving a typical eight-hour workday. “They’re the hardest working individuals I know,” she said. “They are so smart, they’ve raised four very successful kids. But there were opportunities they felt they missed because they lacked a college degree.”
Freed adopted her parents dedicated work ethic at an early age. Before she was 18, she worked several jobs – babysitting, lifeguarding, working at the local drive-in, helping on the farm and mowing lawns. She continued working multiple jobs throughout her undergraduate career.
“I don’t really remember not working,” Freed said. “I’m proud of my work ethic; it has gotten me far in life and has shaped me in so many ways. And I know I got that work ethic from my parents.”
That determination has helped Freed persevere in college. “School doesn’t come easily for me,” she said. “I just work really, really hard.”
Seeing the big picture
During her senior year, Freed interned in the public relations department at MeritCare, now Sanford. In May 2006, she graduated with honors with a bachelor’s degree in communication. She then moved to Minneapolis where she worked for a federal children’s mental health program for five years.
During that time she increasingly contemplated graduate school. It was the peak of the recession. The thought of leaving a job when most people were desperately trying to get one worried her. But her decision was affirmed when she saw supervisors who had 25 years of experience being told to get their master’s degree or they would lose their jobs.
“Working during this economy, in such a cut-throat environment, made me see the bigger picture and how important more education would be to me in the future. I knew NDSU could give me the education I need to make me competitive in my field and would give me the skills to get where I wanted to go,” she said. Freed also chose NDSU because it gave her the opportunity to teach, along with going back to graduate school.
She enrolled in the summer of 2011. The second day of her first semester she wanted to quit. “The material was intense; I was never far from a dictionary,” she said. She stuck with it. Now in her second year, she is confident she made the right decision. “I love it, especially teaching,” she said.
The thought of pursuing her doctorate is already churning, which makes her parents proud.
“They love that I’m teaching and love that I’m getting my master’s. They want me to get a Ph.D. They think it’s great, they’re tickled. They are my biggest cheerleaders.”