University of Minnesota Alumni Association


Editor's Note

Educated for Life

Photo credit: Scott Streble

When I was a kid, I was pretty sure that I was going to be either a microbiologist—or a writer. That was my stock answer to anyone who asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.

And you can probably guess how that turned out.

I’ve always found it intriguing how an idea forms for each of us as to what might be an interesting way to spend the next four or five decades of our working life.

My dueling passions first caught fire when I was a preteen, bolstered by a microscope I received one year as a Christmas present. I spent months examining anything I could stick to a slide, transfixed by the tiny world that lives around us. The microscope was followed soon after by a chemistry set that I clamored for—and which I still remember as being a uniquely dangerous but fascinating gift. (The early 1970s were apparently less encumbered by safety rules than times are today.)

I still am deeply interested in science. I’m drawn to learning how things work and how the world around us does what it does when we aren’t paying attention. The microscope and chemistry set encouraged those interests and let me explore what I was engaged by, even if just on a tiny scale.

The writing part came in because I was deeply interested in people and stories. As a kid, then as a teen, I scribbled notebooks full of words, over and over again. I was irresistibly drawn to creating containers full of words, each holding a story inside—and it’s an activity that still energizes me all these years later.

Our career paths are different for each of us. We may be exposed to a vocation because someone in our family does a certain job, and we think it looks interesting. Or we might see a person on TV who’s doing something that seems intriguing. Or we develop an attachment to butterflies or waterways or something, and that eventually guides us into work that feeds that passion.

My path led to college and a double-major in journalism and English. I learned from great writers who poured their words into books, and from great professors who helped teach me not only how to write, but also how to think.

In this issue, we look at several U of M alumni who pursued their particular interests, building a career that feels just right to them. For some, their education supplied the building blocks for a specific industry or area of expertise. For others, their college experience helped them develop wider-ranging skills that let them strike off in tangential ways.

Whatever the case, they’re using their creativity and background in a variety of “cool jobs” that we wanted to share.

Kelly O’Hara Dyer can be reached at

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