It’s a good thing Alexa Shipman can’t take a hint. Otherwise, she probably wouldn’t be graduating from Colorado State University this month with a degree in communications studies.
Shipman, a native of Littleton, Colorado, had long dreamed of coming to CSU and being part of the Golden Poms dance group that entertains during Rams athletic events and other university functions. A competitive dancer from an early age, she had toured campus as a Chatfield High School senior and was all set to be a Ram. She enthusiastically filed her CSU application and …
Devastated, she enrolled at Metro State University for a semester before once again filing an application with CSU and …
She returned to Metro State for another semester, this time convinced she had done enough. She sent in her application and …
Undaunted, Shipman found a more reliable route. She discovered that an associate’s degree from Front Range Community College got her automatic acceptance to CSU. So, she moved to Fort Collins, started taking classes, and discovered something pretty cool: She really is a very good student.
“Something just clicked for me at Front Range, and all of a sudden my grade point average was twice what it had ever been before,” she says. “It’s hard when people give you specific boxes you’re supposed to fit into. Maybe I wasn’t good at math and science, but I love to write and I’m not afraid to work to achieve my goals. I started to really love learning and going to school.”
Once she finally got to CSU, Shipman discovered her career path in the Department of Communications Studies in the College of Liberal Arts. After hearing from one of her professors about working with substance abuse patients, she knew what she wanted to do.
“That really turned a light on in my head, but I don’t want to be just a therapist – I want my own practice and to be able to make my own path,” she says.
So, the one-time dancer and thrice-rejected Ram hopeful will graduate this month and – wait for it – pursue a Ph.D. Not bad for a first-generation student who attended three schools and stayed true to her dream for six years before earning her college degree.
“Alexa wants to surpass merely being a counselor, which is well beyond the minimum required for that field,” says Hye Seung Chung, an associate professor of communications studies. “She went through a rough patch in her academic life and never gave up. I find her success story deeply inspiring and uplifting.”
Now 24, Shipman’s a bit older than some of her friends from high school who have already graduated from college, but she sees her indirect path to a diploma as an asset. She hopes to continue her academic career at the same place she always wanted to be: CSU.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand how much I’ve changed and evolved as a student and as a person since high school,” she said. “You know, it was devastating when I didn’t get into CSU the first three times, but that rejection helped me learn a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. Now, I really don’t feel like I’m done learning, and I can achieve anything I put my mind to.”