Whether working parents pursuing their dreams, veterans returning to the work force, or even those whose goals don’t seem to align with prescribed degrees, our graduate students are unique and driven. Here is how some of our current students are forging their own professional paths.

Melisa Pesha

Melisa Pesha

Master of Biological Sciences

Anticipated date of graduation: 2017

Teacher, 9th grade physical science, general biology, advanced placement biology, and College in the Schools anatomy/physiology, Chisago Lakes High School, Lindstrom, MN

“After getting my undergraduate degree from Southwest Minnesota State in biology, I had no clue what to do with my life so I decided to join the military. I spent eight years in the Army National Guard as a commissioned officer. I was deployed to Iraq from 2005−07, and that’s when I decided I wanted to become a teacher, specifically in the area of biology.

“I got home from Iraq in July of 2009 and by August I was back in class working toward a master’s in education at Augsburg College. I taught for five years at a private school in the Twin Cities area, which I loved, but a wonderful opportunity for career advancement was given to me and I soon found myself teaching at my alma mater, Chisago! I was approached by my principal to work towards a master’s in biology so that I would be able to continue teaching the College in the Schools anatomy course.

“The biggest challenge for me has been trying to find courses that fit into my work schedule and finding time to study. I’ve learned that I have to leave my house, otherwise I get distracted!”

Read Melisa's full profile

Christina Richert

Christina Richert

Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Behavioral Health

Anticipated date of graduation: January 2018

Case management specialist, Washington County Community Corrections

“My undergraduate education was completed through St. Cloud State University where I received bachelor’s degrees in both criminal justice and psychology. After nearly 20 years in various law enforcement positions and a major life change, I decided to pursue my love of psychology. I have several close family members who struggle with mental health, and I hope to gain a better perspective and knowledge to assist and support them.

“I am a working, single mom, so fitting in homework and classes on top of a very busy schedule has been a tremendous challenge. I do homework during every spare moment I have, which leaves little or no free time. I bring it to my children's sporting events, waiting rooms, lunch breaks at work, and complete a great deal at night once they’ve gone to bed. My priorities are my children, work, and school, and everything else (such as a social life and watching TV) is on hold.

“I believe we are all capable of much more then we think. However, that lesson is not always easy to grasp, especially when faced when adversity. I have proven to myself that I am stronger and able to accomplish much more than I believed I could.”

Teeko Yang

Teeko Yang

Master of Professional Studies in Arts and Cultural Leadership

Anticipated date of graduation: Spring 2017

Partner and Outreach Coordinator, Northern Lights.mn

“I was born in North Minneapolis and lived in the projects until my family and I moved to Oklahoma when I was 11. I ended up attending three different high schools that lacked the support and resources to cultivate creativity among their students. Always seeking creative outlets, I started modeling and acting as a teenager and dipped into painting, poetry, singing, photography, and digital design.

“This led me to study fine arts at the University of Oklahoma for my undergraduate degree. I worked for multiple companies and developed a love for organizations that catalyze arts and culture for social change. I came back to Minnesota because of my interest in the arts and the connection I wanted to build with my former communities. Also, I liked that the ACL program wasn’t just focused on arts administration.

“My interest sparks from the intersection of arts, economic development, and building and cultivating healthy equitable cities. My long-term goal is to move into a field that involves arts and culture, policy, and communities.”


Read more unique student stories.