At Bangor University, in a small coastal city in North Wales, Corinne Eckert is starting to explore.
Her desk sits by the window in her corner dorm room, and as she studies marketing, economics, music recording techniques and an introduction to Welsh, she can look out her window and see buildings more than a century old.
It’s a beautiful campus in the beautiful city of Bangor, tucked beside the Menai Strait where Vikings once battled eight centuries ago.
Eckert has visited the Menai Strait. But she’s set to see so many other things. That includes Snowdonia National Park, home to the United Kingdom’s tallest mountain and a network of trails a 15-minute drive from Bangor.
HPU’s study abroad program made that happen. But HPU helped make her.
Eckert, a senior, is HPU’s Extraordinary Leader for the month of August.
She turned HPU into her own intellectual playground.
The Perspective of Dr. B
Eckert is an Honors Scholar and a Presidential Scholar. She’s a member of three honor societies and the National Society of Leadership and Success. Last spring, she was named in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.
She’s the president of two clubs and a member of Kappa Delta sorority. During her sophomore and junior years, she worked as a Resident Assistant and an Assistant Resident Director helping halls full of students.
Her favorite day on campus, she says, is Move-In Day. She’d walk the halls, with screwdriver in hand wearing an HPU Polo, poking her head into every room and saying, “Hi guys! Welcome to High Point. Do you need any help?”
Meanwhile, back in class, she explored seven different programs before settling on one: event management.
Eckert is an event management major with a business administration minor. Although it took some time to find a major perfectly suited for her, she quickly found a mentor in Dr. Vern Biaett. He’s a professor who has on his office walls intellectually inspiring quotes from Dr. Seuss and Albert Einstein.
Eckert called him “Dr. B,” and he spurred her on.
He told her about potential. He saw it in her.
Life’s One Constant: Change
Two years ago, Dr. Biaett came to HPU from Arizona State University to start the school’s event management program. Today, the program has 60 majors and 90 minors.
Eckert is one. And she is stellar.
Biaett has convinced Eckert to get her master’s in strategic communication at HPU. She’ll start taking courses in January after she returns from Bangor. She’ll begin an 18-month program, and she expects to finish in May 2018.
Biaett would love to see Eckert get her doctorate because he sees her as a professor. She’s a natural leader with a deep-seated sense of empathy, and she can set people at ease in the most uncomfortable situations.
And to think, she got involved with event management almost by accident.
She took Biaett’s Introduction into Event Management course on a whim. She took four more classes with Biaett. She liked the coursework; she saw a future; it reaffirmed for her what she had come to know.
The one constant in life is change.
“My experiences have taught me that you don’t always go down the path you plan,” she says. “And I’ve learned you need to make the most out of every opportunity because you never know.
“It could change your life.”
It did for Eckert. But she’s had a lot of changes in her life.
Take ice hockey.
The Lessons of Salome
Eckert loves ice hockey. She started playing as an eighth-grader in her hometown of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and by the next year, she was playing in a co-ed high school league.
That’s when she got her concussion. And it was bad.
She’s 5-feet-1, and she cut off a guy who stood 5-feet-10. She wanted the puck. She didn’t get it. They crashed into one another, and her head bounced on the ice. She remembers telling herself over and over, “Don’t black out!”
Afterward, she found she couldn’t concentrate for hours like she could before. So she taught herself a different way to learn. She broke her work into manageable stages, concentrating in short stretches and writing down what’s important.
Yet, she couldn’t play hockey. She hated that. But her cousin had an idea.
He asked her to help coach the New Jersey Dare Devils, a hockey team for children, teenagers and young adults who are developmentally disabled.
When she agreed to volunteer, the coaches gave her the toughest player, a little girl with autism who didn’t speak. She only skated around and screamed. Her name was Salome, pronounced Sa-lo-may. She was 8.
Eckert worked with Salome for two years, and they developed their own kind of communication. Eckert taught her how to hold the stick, and they skated around the rink hand-in-hand with Eckert saying repeatedly, “Skate. Skate. Skate.”
That turned out to be the first word Salome spoke.
Salome was Eckert’s student. But she also was Eckert’s teacher, too.
“She taught me so much,” Eckert says. “She taught me that anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it. Never give up.”
Eckert never has.
From Dallas to North Wales
Her experience with the Dare Devils in high school led her to become a member of the Beyond Sport New York Young Advisory Panel, a group of young people who use sport to help address social issues in their communities.
That happened her senior year. This summer, her work with Beyond Sport got her involved with a leadership program created by retired Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson.
She spent a week in Dallas with 10 other students from around the world. They learned leadership skills and ways they could use sport to create positive social change. Eckert is now part of the program’s first graduating class.
Fast forward to today.
Five time zones away from HPU, Eckert continues to explore. HPU helped her understand the importance of that.
“I no longer feel like I’m searching for a purpose,” she says.
“I feel like I can contribute to a larger part of the world.”