By Eric Fergason
As another graduation season comes to a close, we find ourselves reflecting on students who have considered the SALT Center their “Home Base” during their tenure at the University of Arizona. We are proud to see students achieve this milestone and move on to the next phase of their lives, but they’ll certainly be missed. A few weeks ago, we took a nostalgic stroll through campus with 2007 Alumna, Amy Pozez (formerly Back), as she shared her SALT Center Story with us.
Amy attended a small, private high school that catered to her needs as a student who learns differently. When she began looking for colleges, she wanted an institution that would provide her with the same kind of academic support. Her high school gave her a list of universities with various support programs, and, after a few months, Amy found herself at the University of Arizona and enrolled at the SALT Center: “I came to the UA and the SALT Center because I knew I would get an equal amount of accommodations.” While Amy utilized the services provided by the SALT Center for all four years of her undergraduate career, she believes that the first few semesters really made a difference in her transition from high school to college, “It helped make the transition to such a big environment that much easier; it didn’t feel like I was coming to a school of 36,000. I had the SALT Center as my home base, I had my dorm…and everything else was kind of like white noise.”
As Amy continued her college career, she found that the communal environment fostered by the UA and the SALT Center motivated her to get involved, “I really wanted to go to a school with a football team. I just wanted a place with that enthusiastic atmosphere – that camaraderie.” She became more involved at the SALT Center, as well, advocating for it, and using her strengths to help others: “I became a Tutor, worked with the Admissions team, worked the front desk, and was generally very involved with the SALT Center.” Her deep relationship with the program was due, in large part, to the security that it afforded her: “It’s so easy to get involved, to want to stay in one place to do all of the things your supposed to do in life (like getting a job and volunteering), when you have a family-like atmosphere.”
One of the contributing factors to that close-knit environment was Amy’s relationship with her Strategic Learning Specialist, the SALT Center’s current Educational Technology Coordinator, Mary Beth Foster. “It was nice to have someone I could rely on, which is what Mary Beth was for me; she was a confidant, she was a cheerleader, she was a shoulder to lean on - she was everything.” Amy acknowledged that the education, training, and certifications earned by Strategic Learning Specialists at the SALT Center equip them to be an excellent resource for those who learn differently, but their ability to be a safe person by finding common ground with their students is what makes this relationship truly special: “Mary Beth and I were ‘freshmen’ together; it was her first year as a Strategic Learning Specialist. She related to me, and that helped me focus in on what was really important.”
The SALT Center team becomes a part of a student’s life as much as our students become a part of our history. Their time as a student, an Ambassador, a tutor, or any of the roles they might play has a profound impact on our program. All the while, they have highly-educated staff members helping facilitate their growth. On any given day, one might see an Admissions team member with a few Student Ambassadors preparing for a “Taste of SALT” presentation, or a Strategic Learning Specialist cracking jokes with their student as they wrap up an appointment. As Amy put it, “everyone is so interconnected; it’s hard to not to feel like they’re family.”
Amy received her undergraduate degree in Art History, with a minor in Marketing, and went on get her Masters in Elementary Education. She taught General Studies until her husband got a job in Phoenix. She spent that time focusing on her art: “I had a studio, so I just chilled and worked on my own art for a couple of years, which was really fun.” After the birth of their first child, Amy, her husband, and their children moved back to Tucson. She applied to be a substitute teacher at the school where she had previously taught. Instead, she became their new K-8 Art teacher.
After reflecting on the last few years, Amy had some thoughts to share with our newest college graduates: “You have to be open to possibility. You can’t pigeonhole yourself to the degree that you earned - you have to be flexible and figure out how you can apply your skills to whatever it is out there.” For incoming freshmen, she offered this advice: “Take advantage of the teacher’s office hours. You get a lot from those relationships.”
The SALT Center is so proud to call alums like Amy a part of our family, and we congratulate all of our graduating seniors as they join her. Thank you for your contribution during your time here; we look forward to celebrating all of your future accomplishments.