When I first met Austin Barkley '15, a Spanish major at Saint John's, I knew that there was something special about this young man. He carried himself tall and proud, and he had a self-confidence that told me he was going places.
From our first meeting Austin remembered me, and we often found ourselves chatting at a wide variety of events on campus. It was also a pleasure to hear him as the featured student speaker at Saint John's Day last April, as well as at the Parent Orientation Program during Freshmen Move-In Day. I was impressed that he never used notes, and yet he found a rhythm and had a story to tell about his time at Saint John's.
One of the greatest investments that Saint John's makes in its students is the introduction to alumni who mentor and network with them. Austin stepped right into that at a meeting led by Jon Ruis '96, the CEO of United Way of Central Minnesota. At that event Austin met the COO of Microbiologics, a St. Cloud firm that supplies quality-control microorganisms that it delivers to customers around the world. Then and there Austin siezed the opportunity and ended up working as a summer intern alongside Donna Scholer. That summer he assisted in preparing five-year projections for the Operations Department.
Austin's internship offered the chance to get real-world experience at a company that's a global leader in its field. But that only served to prepare Austin for his next major adventure. You see, Austin is among the privileged few to be named a Fulbright Scholar, and during his 10-month stint as a Fulbright he is working in the city of Amecameca, located about an hour and a half southeast Mexico City. There he serves as a resource and support for area English teachers, helping them with curriculum development and running group activities centered on learning English and American culture. All this means that for ten months after leaving the classrooms of Saint John's he is spending most of his time in elementary and high school classrooms in Mexico.
Austin is a highly-motivated young man who realized early on the great asset that is the Johnnie network. But Austin is also grateful for the many alumni who generously support the Student Fund and provide the scholarships that make Saint John's accessible to young men like himself. As he stood at the podium in front of the capacity crowd at Saint John's Day, he looked out at all the faces and simply said "Thank you!" And he didn't say it just on his own behalf, because he represented the voice of every young man who has dreamed of attending Saint John's. That ongoing generosity helps the dream become a reality.
Where will Austin end up after his Fulbright is over? At this point he certainly is not sure. But of one thing he is sure: coming to Saint John's was the best decision he ever made. And Microbiologics' CEO Brad Goskowicz likewise sees the wisdom in that decision. "If Austin wants a job when he gets done, he is always welcome to join our company."
[Editor's note: To read more about Austin's work in Mexico, visit his blog http://ajbarkley.blogspot.com.]