Recently, Alexa Landsman, class of 2006, visited campus to catch up. I was delighted to hear that she recently has been putting her experiences and degrees to work for the Veteran’s Administration, and that she is going back to school to work on her doctorate. I taught her government class as a senior and knew that if she found something toward which to channel her passion for serving others, she would go far. It is very rewarding for our faculty to have these kinds of visits, and we encourage our alumni to make the trip to The Hill!
Alexa takes some time recently to walk down memory lane in the Ussery Archive Room.
I took the opportunity to ask Alexa some questions that can be answered best with the perspective of 10 years.
Please outline your educational journey since graduation from Oak Hill Academy.
I went straight into my undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte the fall after my graduation. I chose to major in Psychology and graduated in 2010. From there, I enrolled in the Masters in Public Health program at East Carolina University and I my career goals began to take shape through my internship at a rural health department in North Carolina. I knew I wanted to help individuals. I’ve worked a variety of jobs within my field and now the next step is to return to advancing my studies. In the Fall I begin a doctorate program at Pacific University outside Portland, Oregon. The program is called PsyD.
What have you being doing in your public health career?
After ECU, I relocated to the Washington, D.C., area and explored a variety of positions within the public health field, including researcher and administrator–all of which kept reminding me that my calling is in serving individuals personally. Life took me to Hawaii where a position with the Veteran’s Administration helped me realize my goal of serving people directly. I’ve worked developing PTSD treatment modalities and coordinating care plans. You could say I found my niche in serving the military population!
Let’s go back to the beginning. Why did you attend Oak Hill Academy?
I was struggling in a large public high school–falling through the cracks; not engaged because I could fly under the radar. My grades were poor because I coasted and didn’t really see the value in getting good grades. My dad, who is in education as a faculty member at UNC, identified that I needed a new environment to rediscover the love of learning and get back to being a motivated learner. I needed an environment where I would be pushed, and known. After a lot of research and talking to people, we found Oak Hill Academy.
Looking back, why was that a good choice for you at the time?
Well, most obviously, my grades improved and I think it was because it was more tangible at Oak Hill. The small class sizes and relationships with my teachers made the connection between effort and results. Good grades were the concrete evidence I was looking for to know I was capable. I began to develop confidence, and took pride in doing well. The teachers didn’t let me coast or shut down, and that meant being honest with me, which helped me be honest with myself.
I had been diagnosed with ADHD, but until this point in my education, it had never been really addressed in the classroom. But my teachers at Oak Hill Academy took the time to know me and teach to my best learning style in a very personal way. And, of course, looking back, knowing that I couldn’t hide in class and had to do my homework–that was the nudge I needed. The structure at OHA promotes the development of the executive skills that had been missing. Of course, I couldn’t have explained it that way at the time.
What do you miss most about your time as a student at Oak Hill Academy?
That’s easy to answer. I miss the community feel. Since OHA, I have never been in an environment that replicates that same type of special feel. I see my time here as laying the foundation for making me aware of how important community and being a caring human being is. Oak Hill is a very nurturing environment. It’s palpable–the interactions I see during my visit to campus now let me know that it is still like that. I’m proud of that and protective about it as a memory of Oak Hill Academy. As an adult, I know how uncommon and special such a positive environment really is.
What advice would you give to the 16 year-old you as you began at OHA?
Be open to change and take advantage of the resources there. Take this opportunity to learn how to become open to possibilities. The experience at OHA builds character if you let it. You’re going to meet people who will expand your view of the world and your view of your own capabilities. A quick example: I tried tennis for the first time at OHA and got to experience being part of a team. That’s an experience I never would have had at my large public school because I am decidedly noncompetitive! The “safe” social environment here was essential to allow myself to try new things. I’m glad I was open to it. The times that I’ve been able to take chances outside my comfort zone–I can trace that back to learning it at OHA.
What do you tell people about Oak Hill Academy?
I tell people that it was my foundation. The genuineness of the faculty and the comradery of the students is special. It didn’t matter if you were the nerdiest student or the basketball All-American, you were part of the same “family.” Never before or since, have I been in a more supportive environment. I needed that at that time in my life.