• Gator Quad


Updated: Aug 6

The funny thing about “defining moments” is that we sometimes fail to recognize them in real-time. Some of the most important moments come and go, but the effects must be steeped like tea. Slowly, but intentionally, something wonderful develops.

As a first-year student I wasn’t sure what I wanted to choose for my major/minor let alone my career path. It’s difficult to find an internship as a young college student with limited experience and unclear career goals. On this typical day a flyer caught my eye – an opportunity for this “Creating Landscapes” summer education internship through the DMS department, so I decided to inquire. It didn’t take long for Professor Weisman to secure my commitment.

Fast-forward to the start of the three-week internship: I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d gotten myself into. I met the other interns and staff, and introduced myself to the program Founder Director and retired Allegheny College dance faculty, Jan Hyatt . As a team we worked on setting up to welcome the students. In the preparations I had a moment to spare, so I asked Jan if there was anything I could do to help. As I sat with her to complete a task, she said something that caught me off-guard. “Sam, I think this will be a transformative experience for you.” I think I replied with something like “I sure hope so!” not consciously understanding the implication of what my new acquaintance had said. I think back and now know that she had observed my work ethic, attitude, perceptiveness, and skill, and she believed in my potential. Her confidence in me informed my experience as a Creating Landscapes intern. The words were not meant as a compliment as much as a permission to explore, make mistakes, lean into something unfamiliar.

I took risks and found a new voice which inspired a passion for experiential education. It was the subconscious drive to exceed her expectations that guided my experience. Yes, I did grow in wonderful personal development; it was a transformative experience because I was open to it.

Jan is a very special person in my life. I hold her in incredibly high esteem. It was her belief in my potential that encouraged me to flourish. If that interaction had not occurred, I wonder if my self-confidence would have carried me as far out of my comfort zone. I let myself be inspired by those around me, and took Jan’s continued belief in me to heart. The next year I proposed a new class for summer Creating Landscapes and she gave me the chance to co-teach, a decision I was told was not made lightly. The “defining moment” was continuous as the transformation did not stop after the end of the internship. The principles I learned through my two summers with Creating Landscapes have been “steeping” in my soul for years.

I’ve now been an Allegheny graduate for two years, working as a financial analyst since 2018 --- my profession is certainly not in the realm of experiential education.

The "Jan Hyatt influence", though, has suffused my adult life in other ways. For example, I now volunteer as a Playologist at the local children’s museum and hope to work to enrich children’s learning experiences for as long as I can.

I keep thinking back to that moment when Jan provided the spark that has stuck with me. The passion came from budding confidence in myself, nourished by the faith of someone I look up to. From this exercise in reflection I’ve learned that a defining moment can sometimes be appreciated more completely in retrospect. ~~ Samantha Bretz (Class of '18)


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