Shannon Columb is a 2019 Council scholarship recipient turning her passion for the outdoors into a career. She is a senior at UW-Stevens Point and graduates in May 2020. She sat down with Council writer, Katherine Corbett, to talk about how she picked the right major for her, how she learned to accept herself as a person with a visual impairment and how she accommodates her visual impairment in her hobbies.
Katherine Corbett: Tell me about the first time you knew you wanted to major in Environmental Education and Interpretation. What sparked your curiosity?
Shannon Columb: I spent a summer after my sophomore year in college working at Lion’s Camp [in Rosholt, Wisconsin]. I went to the camp while I was growing up. It was a place where people who have disabilities like me were exploring and enjoying nature. I knew right away that teaching people about the outdoors was an excellent fit for me.
Katherine: Turning stubbornness into determination seemed to be a theme in your application and throughout your life. Could you talk more about that?
Shannon: When I was a kid, I wanted to be like everyone else. I did not want to stand out by using my large print textbooks or my talking calculator or my white cane. I was the only person in my school with a visual impairment, and I was afraid that all people would see was that I have a disability. I did not want to accept that I was a person with a visual impairment. In high school, I came to the realization that I could not go anywhere in my life if I constantly denied that I had a disability and that I sometimes needed help. Now I have a more open mind and am less concerned with how I look. The tools and techniques I have learned have become the way I live my life. Finding confidence by using my cane and other visual aids has helped with my social anxiety. I am more open with people now because I see myself as a person who happens to be visually impaired.
Katherine: What kinds of activities do you like to do in your spare time?
Shannon: I love to hike, canoe, kayak, bike, read, draw, hang out with my friends and be outside.
Katherine: How have you adapted your hobbies to accommodate your visual impairment?
Shannon: I have a guide dog named Frasier. He has made hiking so much more efficient because he can lead me around stumps and over rocks. It took a lot longer traversing with a cane, since I would have to find the obstacle and then figure out how to get around it. Frasier has made hiking more fun. When I canoe and kayak, I go with another person who helps navigate the water.
Katherine: What are three words friends or family members would use to describe you?
Shannon: They would say courageous, fun-loving and positive.