Graduate Calls Mentorship a “Game Changer”

Kristine Kuhl, SAU graduate
Kristine Kuhl, SAU graduate

When Kristine Kuhl enrolled in the online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership program at Spring Arbor University, her sights were set on the VP spot at her large prehospital care agency.

As its Quality Improvement/Quality Assurance Supervisor, Kristine oversaw direct patient care delivered by EMS professionals in several Michigan counties. The agency had never had a female VP at its helm before. The busy mother of five, whose husband also has a demanding career, took a year off from her job to get the most out of the online Masters program. But after discussing her work and goals with her mentor at Spring Arbor who provided personalized support and professional insights into her life and career, Kristine’s approach to work and communicating with people took an abrupt turn.

New Perspectives Gained in Viewing Conflict

Kristine cites her conversations with her mentor, Dr. David Rawson, as the game changer that provoked self-reflection and examination of her true calling. In her QI/QA EMS supervisory role in prehospital care, Kristine acted as a liaison between various entities to resolve problems, negotiating patient care complaints by separating emotions from facts. She focused on dissecting conversations to ensure that everyone involved were talking about the same thing, and then corrected what was necessary to bring resolution to each situation.

Kristine’s mentor, Dr. Rawson, a professor of political economy at Spring Arbor University and a former U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda and Mali, provided her with new ways of viewing conflict by digging into it more deeply. Their conversations helped Kristine to see the motivating factors behind how conflict arises, how to navigate conflict and how to resolve it with practical solutions.

As mentor and student, Dr. Rawson and Kristine had extensive discussions of the readings assigned to students of the online MSCL program which were instrumental to her understanding of her path. In her work, Kristine has also been involved in child advocacy issues, child abuse and the difficult conversations one must have when there are only 30 seconds to decide what to say to someone who is at the end of their life — conversations that no-one prepares anyone to have. Conflict resolution was a big part of her role, as was communication in urgent life and death situations.

Understanding People’s Motivations to Effect Change in Communication

In their discussions addressing the prehospital care department where Kristine worked and the culture change required to reduce its high staff turnover, Dr. Rawson helped her to understand different players in the workplace and how they got there. By exploring the individual motivations of her coworkers, Kristine considered the best approaches to effective interpersonal communication. She had never stepped back and thought about the motivations of other people before. Dr. Rawson helped Kristine to understand that her own requests and approaches were possibly affecting people’s responses.

A New Road Ahead With a New Master’s Degree

After spending the last 18 years in a paramedic related profession, Kristine is undecided on which path she will pursue as a graduate of the Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership program. The presentation of information regarding public health issues and the appropriate crafting of evocative messages are now part of Kristine’s professional calling. She is a child advocate in child abuse issues, a leader in communicating within prehospital environments and, at heart, a change agent.

Following in-depth readings and discussions of communications as a vocation with her mentor, Kristine became involved with research and her whole life and calling took a turn. It became apparent to Kristine that there is a huge gap between what scholars know and how the correct choice of words is applied on the street level. For example, how would she go to a scene with a barricaded gunman and suggest that police apply the proper wording recommended by theorists?

In another example, scholars declare that a reframing of child sex abuse is necessary in media, but reporters insist it is not their responsibility to change it. Kristine is inspired to work toward bringing change that will benefit others. Now graduated from the MSCL program at Spring Arbor University, Kristine will either return to her former position and invoke a culture change there to reduce its staff turnover, or work in the child advocacy field to raise awareness of child abuse and child sexual abuse issues with a view to changing perceptions of them. With the tools she has acquired through Spring Arbor University’s mentorship program, she can now change things.