Diverse interests lead to a planned career in academia for Zachary Peterson ’16

At Ripon College, Zachary Peterson ’16 discovered his passions in life, and now he is hoping to use his skills to address institutional mental health in the United States.

Peterson is pursuing a master’s degree in the English Writing Program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he is a graduate assistant director in the Center for Writing Excellence and a faculty research assistant in the English Department.

For his master’s thesis, he is researching “the institutional mental health narrative in the United States and how we think about and process narratives such as mental health that have complex, sometimes unpleasant, pasts. My purpose is to bring voices to back into such narratives,” he says.

When applying to colleges as an undergraduate, Peterson had been looking at a different school to attend. But during a family trip to visit friends in the Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, area, Peterson’s parents scheduled a visit to Ripon College.

“The rest is history,” Peterson says. “The minute I walked on campus, I knew it was the right fit for me. The rich architecture, history and just the feeling it gave me is what sold me, and I would uncover more of its beauty as the years passed so quickly while I was a student.”

Peterson majored in history with a minor in anthropology at Ripon. “As a student historian and anthropologist, I had to learn to see the world and its people in different ways from different angles,” he says. “What has benefited me the most in my present endeavors is what I did outside my major in and outside the classroom — what I call the beauty of the liberal arts education.”

He says the ability to take classes outside of his major area and work in the Office of Advancement “gave me leadership and personal growth experience,” he says. “What was most rewarding about my time at Ripon College was really becoming a part of a family that includes classmates, alumni, co-workers, faculty and staff. Knowing that we truly are a unique family that has and will continue to make a mark on the world.

“Being a student at Ripon College has made who I am today. I can thank her for so many things, including helping me discover my passions in life and find my best friends. I have found my place in academia, and I have Ripon to thank for my success in the graduate program thus far because of the diverse interests I bring to my research.”

After earning his master’s degree, Peterson plans to pursue a Ph.D. in English-rhetoric and composition.

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