Kristen Ruhl serves as the Program Director at SecureFutures in Milwaukee, WI. Ruhl is responsible for managing the program team that implements SecureFutures’ programming throughout the state of Wisconsin. She also leads efforts to build community partnerships with key stakeholders in the education, nonprofit and business sectors to expand the organization’s reach and impact.
Before joining SecureFutures, Ruhl led programming and delivered client services at other Wisconsin-based nonprofits, including Interfaith Older Adult Programs and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society – Wisconsin Chapter. Prior to that, she graduated with a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern University, after completing her bachelor’s degree at Ball State University (Psychology & Philosophy double major).
Ruhl is a born and bred Midwesterner having grown up in northern Illinois before pursuing her education in Muncie and Chicago, and eventually settling in Milwaukee. She is continually inspired by the students she has met through SecureFutures and the great heights they have reached as a result of becoming financially capable and empowered.
What did you study while you were at Ball State?
What is your career now?
What does a typical week in your position look like?
What are the most valuable skills you learned in your major?
For Philosophy, I would say critical and analytical thinking, communication skills (written and verbal), and intellectual perseverance.
For Psychology, probably data analysis, research skills, and a start to understanding other people. My master’s degree taught me how to use empathy, maintain boundaries, and really listen, and how to synthesize disparate information into a coherent narrative.
Of course, it also increased my understanding of people from a behavioral and emotional standpoint. My ethical and moral compass was also strongly influenced by the Honors College’s Humanities sequence and my Philosophy classes.
How are the skills you learned as a Philosophy student relevant to your career and life today?
What is your advice to other Humanities students?
I think that the value that you gain from a Humanities degree is all of the professional skills that you can develop, maybe more than the course content you are learning. The way you turn a Humanities major into a career is to be the best prepared and developed professional possible.
Anyone can learn the nuts and bolts of a job, but knowing how to think is something special.
You can really set yourself apart from your colleagues and accelerate your advancement by knowing how to think for yourself and communicate. I think one of the best things that Humanities students can do is to deeply engage with the material they are learning to develop those critical thinking and communication skills.
Don’t just memorize facts and regurgitate theories for papers, projects, and tests. Take advantage of the opportunities to reflect and debate. Solicit feedback from your peers and professors. Get comfortable receiving constructive criticism and use it to improve your work. Seek out leadership roles. Choose an area of study that piques your curiosity and fascinates you, then mine it for growth opportunities. Those are the experiences that will serve you in your career, no matter what it ends up being. It’s pretty unique to have the opportunity to pursue all of that in an undergraduate degree; many other courses of study don’t prioritize those experiences, so take full advantage.