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The College of St. Scholastica

Since November, Kristen Lilya ‘20 has been a part of Native News Online, a publication that uplifts the voices of Indigenous peoples nationwide. Described as a “link to Indian Country,” the digital platform has an audience of over 16,000 subscribers. Lilya connects her success as the organization’s Marketing and Sponsorship Representative to her experiences as a business management and marketing student at the College.

Getting her start

Lilya debated several college options before selecting St. Scholastica.“I grew up in a really small town in northern Minnesota. When I was looking for a college, I was looking for one close to home that wasn’t too large. I had four college options and when St. Scholastica sat me down to talk, they were focused on me and what would be successful for what I wanted to do. That’s why I chose CSS in the first place, they cared about me.”

After making the decision, Lilya got involved right away. “I was a part of the golf team for two years, which was a huge motivator to choose CSS as well.” Having a goal in mind entering college, Lilya was on track without knowing it just yet. “I knew I wanted to get into business, so I started as a business management major. My sophomore year I added marketing, so I graduated with both majors.”

Lilya acknowledges that none of it would have been possible without the supportive community.

“My whole time at CSS, I actually felt like I was included. As a Native American student, it was great to have the Native American room to study and getting to be a part of NASA [Native American Student Alliance] was a big help as well.” In terms of staying on track for her education, Lilya spoke to the benefits of being a part of the TRIO program at St. Scholastica. “TRIO was a large part of my success at CSS, even though I only went through the program for a year of my time here.”

Lilya’s most impactful course happened during her freshman year. “My Dignitas class was a social justice class taught by Sarah Stewart. I learned a lot about being a good human being, and what to say, what not to say in order to be informed about different scenarios.” This course also introduced a profound lesson. “My biggest takeaway from college in general was that people come from different backgrounds with their own stories, and you need to be aware of that with every interaction you have.”

In Lilya’s current position, she is reminded of the lessons from her Dignitas each and every day. “We talk to so many people with their own unique backgrounds that I’m always thinking about [Dignitas] in the back of my mind. The class had so many different roles and interactions that it was easy to blend into my current role.”

Doing good during a pandemic

Despite the transition to virtual coursework during her last semesters, Lilya made the most of her experience. “It was a shock for everyone, obviously. We had never done class online to such an extent, which made it more difficult to motivate myself to get things done from my own room. It was really lonely, to be honest. Some friends and peers would contact me to ask if I wanted to go do something or study together, but this was right away in March 2020 when we were supposed to be in lockdown, so I felt like I was always declining people for my own safety.”

But the pandemic did have a positive impact, preparing her for her current job where she works from home. “I think it helped me since I got used to working from home. Studying and attending class from home propelled my self-motivation. I was able to get my work done without anyone monitoring me as if I was in the classroom. Now that I continue to work remotely, the skill of self-motivation has assisted me immensely.” Soon after Lilya graduated, “I realized that I have this degree and I thought I was prepared for anything. However, I quickly learned that you keep learning, way after the classroom experience gets done.”

Prior to her position at Native News Online, Lilya noted, “I took the first job I could get right out of college. I spent ten months there, and loved the place, but realized it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t what I had hoped to stay with for the long term, but I was just excited to have a job.” In terms of advice from her experience, Lilya stated, “Just because you want a job immediately doesn’t mean it has to be a dream job. It’s ok to take a position and realize it isn’t a good fit and look for something else. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Lilya reflected on her work at Native News Online, “I would see myself in this role for at least the next five years. This company and this brand and the people I work with are great coworkers and I’ve learned a lot from them, both about skills and about myself.”

Kristen Lilya
Kristen Lilya