Senior English major Laura Isdahl showcases how much potential students have within the Gustavus community. From her involvement with numerous extracurricular activities to co-creating a publishing class and resulting website, Laura has had no shortage of accomplishments on campus.
Laura comes from Plymouth, Minnesota and went to a big high school in the suburbs of Minneapolis. Part of the reason she chose to come to Gustavus was because she was seeking a strong community within a smaller student body.
“During an overnight I had at Gustavus during my Senior year of high school, I followed this person throughout all her activities. I met people who were happy to be here and genuinely wanted to know more about me. I felt like I was already a part of the community,” Laura said.
Laura came to Gustavus with no idea what to major in, so she decided to take some creative writing courses for her first semester because it was a subject she enjoyed in high school. She enrolled in some classes taught by Baker Lawley, who recommended majoring in English to her when she was finished with the course.
“I initially felt intimidated by English majors, but I loved creative writing, and Baker made me realize I was capable of accomplishing the major. He encouraged me that it was a great opportunity to improve my writing skills, and when I declared the major, I made him my advisor,” Laura said.
Laura and Lawley worked closely with each other over the next few years. Not only did Laura enroll in a number of his classes, but she also was the managing editor for the Firethorne literary magazine. Eventually, the two collaborated on making Firethorne a part of the new Editing and Publishing course introduced last year along with Lawley’s new creation, Razor Literary Magazine.
“When I had an opportunity to start teaching a class on Editing and Publishing, I wanted to start a new online literary magazine housed at Gustavus, but I knew I’d need help with that,” Lawley said. “Laura was the first student I thought of to work with. We worked together over the summer in 2015, meeting in a coffee shop and working on every minute detail to get Razor Literary Magazine founded and running. Laura shaped the magazine’s style and tone, wrote our Mission Statement and Submission Guidelines, and helped make it an appealing magazine for Gusties to work on in my Editing and Publishing class. She was a great colleague on the project and a lot of fun to work with.”
Laura said that co-creating Razor was “the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done at Gustavus.” Alongside this, she’s also served as a tutor for the Writing Center, a Gustie Greeter, a Gustie Guide, a Gustavus Ambassador, and is a member of the Guild of St. Lucia. During her time as a Gustie Greeter, she became close friends with fellow English major, Camryn Heckel.
“When I was a first-year student, Laura was my Gustie Greeter,” Heckel said. “For the first semester, she was super attentive and was a comforting resource to have. Even when she went abroad last Spring, she was attentive, and reached out to me multiple times, even though she was across the globe. Over the course of this last year, Laura has become one of my closest friends. I would say that I spend more time with Laura than anyone else on this campus.”
Heckel’s favorite memories with Laura consist of their daily lunches, attempting the Super Quizzes in the Star Tribune, playing a ridiculous amount of cribbage together, and their shared love for Beyoncé. Heckel appreciates Laura’s kindness toward her peers.
“Laura is one of the most inclusive people I have ever met,” Heckel said. “She goes way out of her way for anybody and everybody. She truly knows how to make people feel special, but one thing that is most unique about that, is that she genuinely sees the greatness in everyone. Laura is one of the best communicators I know and knows how to talk to everyone, no matter the subject. Laura truly is one of the greatest friends I have ever had, and that is because of her kindness, attentiveness, and compassion.”
Laura has big plans for the future, as she’s recently been accepted by Fulbright to teach English in Malaysia for a year. This won’t be the first time she’ll be far from home, as she’s previously studied abroad in South Africa. Lawley is confident she’ll be able to have a big impact on the students she will teach.
“Laura’s a wonderful student and writer, but she also has intangible skills as a leader and communicator that make her really stand out,” Lawley said. “It’s been a joy to see all these things coming together for her since she was in my Introduction to Creative Writing class in her first year. She’s become a great tutor and leader for the Writing Center, and has pushed herself to broaden her education by studying abroad in South Africa. The Fulbright committee clearly saw the same things, that Laura’s a great student who’s also a great communicator and leader, when they gave her the fellowship. I’m very proud of her and am very excited for her to have this opportunity.”
As Laura prepares to leave Gustavus and head out into the big world, she encourages students to take advantage of the opportunities the campus has to offer.
“One thing I always tell people is to really get involved in things at Gustavus that interest you specifically. The most rewarding experiences I’ve had were activities that I sought out for myself,” Laura said.