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Imperfections and All

[Stetson University Undergraduate Commencement Spring 2018, May 12]

Andrea Kahn ’18: “I learned to enjoy the whole [college] experience, because I’m only going to do this once.”

By her own admission along with casual observation, Andrea Kahn doesn’t easily settle. She continually pushes for more.

Homeschooled since the sixth grade, Kahn excelled in her studies and taught herself to play guitar. As a teen, she helped with the financials of two separate businesses, even filing tax returns. At Stetson, she made the women’s rowing team despite having never previously competed in the sport – then wound up on the men’s team to close out her four-year Hatter career. Oh, and as an accounting major, Kahn was an A student almost all the way through her coursework. Thankfully, she says, almost all A’s but not entirely.

Fact is, her biggest lesson learned on campus came by virtue of not quite “achieving.” Through her first year and into her second, Kahn had earned straight A’s before finally receiving a B in calculus. In retrospect, she says now, just before graduation, that slight academic stumble was the best thing that could possibly have happened. She gained a new perspective on college life.

“I learned to enjoy the whole experience, because I’m only going to do this once,” Kahn says. “I got a B, and it wasn’t the end of the world. I’m still getting good grades. But I’m stopping and smelling the roses along the way. … I’m living and enjoying every moment instead of stressing about what’s to come.

“College isn’t just about the GPA.”

In March, Kahn was sporting a 3.78 GPA.

A bit of serendipity brought Kahn to Stetson. She wasn’t planning to apply for admission until her volleyball coach at Poinciana High School, outside of Orlando in Kissimmee, recommended Stetson’s accounting program. (While being homeschooled, Kahn was able to play volleyball for the high school nearest her home.) Years earlier, she had displayed an affinity for accounting, helping a neighbor organize paperwork for a trucking dispatch company and eventually filing taxes for her. Kahn was 13.

“Rowing makes me a better person,” says Kahn.

For good measure, another story of overachievement emerged on the volleyball court, too. Although picking up the game relatively late, Kahn made the high-school varsity team as a freshman and became the captain as a sophomore.

During her tour of campus, site barely seen, Kahn was sold on Stetson. After spending a short time in the Lynn Business Center, she just knew. “I didn’t even finish my applications for the other places,” she recounts. “You know when you have a gut feeling.”

Upon arrival on campus, Kahn intended to forego athletics and focus solely on school. But she grew bored. So, she tried out for the rowing team and made it. “I never thought I would love a sport as much as I loved volleyball,” she describes. “Rowing makes me a better person. There’s something spiritual about waking up in the morning, getting in a boat and rowing underneath the stars until the sun comes up. And you watch the sun rise over the lake [Lake Beresford].”

Unable to be medically cleared to row, Kahn joined the men’s team, which was in need of a coxswain — a verbal commander.

Kahn was a standout for three years until two bulging discs in her back sidelined her last fall, temporarily. Unable to be medically cleared to actually row, Kahn joined the men’s team, which was in need of a coxswain. Kahn explains that with strict weight limitations, it’s not uncommon for women to serve as a men’s coxswain, with the role of barking out commands instead of rowing.

“I’m not a quitter,” Kahn reasons about the transition, adding with a chuckle, “I’m basically telling them what to do, and they all hate it.”

Seconds later, Kahn smiles more broadly. There’s a little more to this story. During her first year, she met Joseph Jacobsen, a rower, and they began dating toward the end of that year. They are still together, with Jacobsen, a double-major in finance and economics, also set to graduate in May. “I like to compete against him and tell him that accounting majors are way smarter than finance and economics majors, which we are,” Kahn says.

Rower Joseph Jacobsen also is on Kahn’s team.

Kahn has plenty of reason for cheer. Her own course appears set.

Is there a grand plan? Kahn’s response is quick: “Of course – I’m an accounting major.”

There’s a summer internship at Ernst and Young in Orlando, followed by pursuit of a Stetson M.B.A., then on to take the test to become a Certified Public Accountant. “I want to be a financial controller,” Kahn says without hesitation.

Is it fair to say you want to rise to the top of your profession? “I think so, yeah,” she says, simply.

Kahn is confident. Also, she’s reflective, identifying Michael Bitter, Ph.D., as her favorite/most challenging professor because he “makes me think.” She calls Monica Mendoza, Ph.D., and Maria Rickling, Ph.D., among others, “amazing human beings and fantastic teachers, too.”

Mostly, Kahn says she has become comfortable in her own skin, even if it isn’t always perfect.

“If I chose one word to sum up my time here at Stetson, it would be growth,” Kahn concludes. “I think I’m a better, truer me now at the end of it than I was before. … I’ve always known who I was, and it hasn’t changed. But I’m me all the time, no matter what.

“I think life is beautiful with a couple of imperfections in it.”

Michael Candelaria

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