Zac Ochsner graduates magna cum laude on Friday with a bachelor’s degree in music education. The North Platte native will also perform the national anthem during commencement.
What does this moment mean to you?
This is such an exciting time, but it’s also a little scary. I’m so proud of myself for getting this far, but there isn’t a set path for me now, which means I can do pretty much anything.
What are your plans after graduation?
I’m planning on going back home to North Platte to substitute teach while I apply for teaching jobs that start in the fall. My dream job is to teach middle school choir. I love things about every level of music education, but my favorite is definitely the middle school level.
Why did you choose this career?
I have wanted to be a music teacher since I was in seventh grade. I have loved music my whole life and I love that I am now able to share that love with others. I also had amazing music teachers while in school, and they really inspired me. As an educator, I hope to teach students to love music, but I also want to create an environment for students to grow as people, a space where they can express themselves and create connections.
How did UNK help prepare you for this career?
UNK has an amazing teacher education program; the music faculty are also amazing at preparing future music educators. I had so many opportunities to work in a classroom and try out lesson plans and experience teaching firsthand.
What activities/organizations were you involved in at UNK? How did that enhance your education?
I am a Thompson Scholar, so I was involved in the learning community. That community really helped me in my first few years by making my transition to college so much easier. There was a whole group of students and a team of people who wanted everyone to succeed.
I have also been involved in our chapter of the National Association for Music Educators. This organization has brought in a lot of wonderful educators to talk to us about a plethora of things in music education.
What was your most memorable experience at UNK?
I had the amazing opportunity to do a semester abroad in Augsburg, Germany, last summer. I know this isn’t specifically UNK, but because they have relationships with so many schools, I was able to work with the study abroad office and find a place I could be successful in. My experiences there and the people I met are things I will treasure forever.
Who was the most influential person during your undergraduate career?
There are so many people who were there for me during my four years at UNK. The first person that comes to mind though is Dr. Beth Mattingly. I had a class with her my first semester, and since then she has always been someone I could go to with any questions or concerns, or just to sit down in her office and chat. She is such an inspiring person and a wonderful educator.
If you could go back in time and do something differently, what would it be?
At the risk of sounding cliché, I really don’t think I would do anything differently. I loved my time at UNK so much! I met some amazing people and created so many connections. There isn’t anything that stands out in my memory as something I would want or need to change.
What advice do you have for current and future Lopers?
Take every opportunity you are presented with. Even if you aren’t sure that opportunity will be super relevant to your field, it just might give you ideas on how you can do something better.