“I was so surprised I didn’t even cry!” said senior kinesiology student Gillian Dahl, who was recently named one of the University of Minnesota’s 2019 Homecoming Court Royals. The same could not be said for Dahl’s very proud grandmother, who attended the 2019 Homecoming coronation and football game along with Dahl’s mother to watch her get crowned as a U of MN Homecoming Court Royal.
Dahl was chosen as a 2019 Royal along with fellow College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) senior Brett Herbers, who is an aspiring teacher in the DirecTrack to Teaching program and the Racial Justice in Urban Schooling minor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. As Homecoming Royalty, Dahl and Herbers represent the entire student body as the official ambassadors of spirit and Gopher pride. They were interviewed and selected last spring to be a part of the 2019 Homecoming Court, a group of ten students who participated in a myriad of Homecoming Week events. The Court’s goal is to inspire the campus to participate in activities ranging from blood drives to cookouts. At the end of the week, two Royals are chosen from the Court based on their show of spirit and school pride.
“That week was probably the best week I’ve had at the U so far,” Dahl said. “I just feel like I completely embraced what it means to be a U of M student. It was an amazing experience, and I would recommend that everyone apply to do it.”
Dahl has been a Gopher at heart for years, saying “I’ve known I wanted to go to the U of M since I was in the fifth grade.” Her passion for people and interest in health care led her to a kinesiology major, an autism spectrum disorder certificate from the Department of Educational Psychology, and a neuroscience minor.
“During my sophomore year in high school I took a class that gave me the opportunity to interact with students with disabilities. Through that, I saw physical and occupational therapists in action, in a school setting, and I knew – that’s what I want to do.”
Dahl entered the University through CEHD thinking she would either pursue kinesiology or education of some sort. When she was given the opportunity to graduate early, she thought “I don’t want to leave yet, I love it here!” So, instead she chose to stay, and added a minor and certificate to supplement her degree with more knowledge about the special education population and the nervous system and brain.
“I think about that decision now, if I had graduated last spring I never would have had this experience,” said Dahl. “I chose right.”
Dahl said she feels incredibly lucky to have gotten to know, and become friends with, the students on the 2019 Homecoming Court that otherwise she might have never met. She will graduate this May, and plans to enter the workforce for a year or two before she applies to occupational therapy programs. She will either accept an offer to teach special education through the Teach for America program, or will look for a job as a rehabilitation technician.
“I don’t know what I want to do yet,” Dahl said. “But, I think either option will help me when I apply for an occupational therapy program. All I know is that I don’t want to let fear be my motivator – I know my end goal, and I know I’ll get there!”