Deb Knotts ’93 Skinner has been a member of the Graceland community for as long as she can remember, and now, she is bringing her lifelong passion for the university and what it has to offer to Graceland’s admissions office as dean of undergraduate admissions.
DEB KNOTTS ’93 SKINNER has been a member of the Graceland community for as long as she can remember, and now, she is bringing her lifelong passion for the university and what it has to offer to Graceland’s admissions office as dean of undergraduate admissions.
She recalls her first memories of Graceland: “I was in Kelly Hall, the old art building, and my oldest brother, Dan Knotts, was attending as an art major. I think I was about five years old; he sat me down in front of a potter’s wheel and let me play with a lump of clay. Then, he took me and my sister to the MSC, and we scooted around in roller skates and had a grand time. I had such positive association with Graceland, it was hard to even imagine going anywhere else.”
In 1989, Skinner was recruited to Graceland, along with her twin sister, Ruth, to run cross country and track. Then head coach Terry Yee told the twins he wanted to grow the program, and they had just what he was looking for to bring excitement to his teams.
The sisters were placed on Amici house, despite early requests for Shalom. Marian Killpack told Skinner she had seen the twins at Spectacular, the annual Community of Christ summer camp held on Graceland’s Lamoni campus, and knew they had just the leadership skills she needed for Amici.
All these expectations may have been too much pressure for some 18 year olds, but Skinner didn’t disappoint. She qualified for nationals in cross country that first year at Graceland – she and Ruth were the first women in Graceland’s history – and by the time she was a sophomore, Skinner was a captain for the team. She ended up loving Amici and house life, and as a junior, she was a house president; then she spent her senior year as Graceland’s student government president. Not only had she impressed those around her, but she had also become deeply invested in Graceland and everything it stood for.
After graduation, Skinner worked as the assistant coach for the track and cross country teams under Yee for seven years while she worked in a variety of other areas throughout the institution: the grant-funded Educational Talent Search program, career services, as a secretary for alumni programs… She got a lot of different exposure to a lot of offices around campus.
“That coaching experience allowed for me to transition from athlete to leader; and the different roles I had around campus really helped me understand higher education in a holistic way.”
When Skinner left Graceland and worked as a hall director for Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, she had the opportunity to work in a public liberal arts institution much larger than Graceland, and she could feel the difference in the community, but the experience offered her perspective.
The largest career shift for Skinner came when she entered law enforcement. However, it tapped into all the experiences she had gained to that point and put them into a different role as a civil servant. This experience was incredibly helpful when she returned to Graceland as director of residence life, because it gave her a true appreciation for Graceland’s educational approach to student conduct.
So, after going out into the world with her Graceland education, returning to “the Hill” with new knowledge and experience seemed to be the most natural transition.
“At no place that I ever worked did I appreciate and value the community and the mission as much as I do at Graceland,” shared Skinner. “I feel that people need Graceland more than they realize – that we fill a special niche in developing the human connection. So, the challenge is, how do you market Graceland so that every year, 350 young people who need it know that they want it?”
Part of the answer has already shown itself to her through a glimpse of an impressive alumni network eager to help. Since she became dean of undergraduate admissions, Skinner has been flooded with phone calls, emails and people reaching out asking what they can do.
While some alumni efforts have already materialized, Skinner has some additional ideas for alumni who want to get involved in a new Graceland success story.
Support Graceland students – Sign up to be a mentor in the GU4U networking/mentoring program, which links current students with successful alumni, at My.Graceland.edu. Post opportunities for jobs and internships in the GU4U networking group on LinkedIn.
Stay connected with Graceland – Make an active effort to stay connected on social media or via email, just to make sure that you know what is going on.
Tell us what you’re up to! – We want to hear all the amazing things our alumni are doing in the world. If you want to share your story of how Graceland positively impacted your life, send it to our communications office at firstname.lastname@example.org or to Cal Closson at email@example.com.
Contribute to (or have your children apply for) the Alumni Endowed Scholarship – Did you know that if you have children who attend Graceland, they can qualify for a scholarship of $1,000 renewable for up to four years?
Refer a student to Graceland – Do you know of a high school or transfer student we should talk to about enrolling at Graceland? Head to graceland.edu/refer and we’ll be sure to reach out, and we’ll give you an update.
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