Emma Montgomery has redefined success for herself by maximizing opportunities at Texas Tech University.
In the rural New Mexico town of Artesia, located about three hours southwest of Lubbock, Emma Montgomery — a senior in high school at the time — was struggling to find a college that would meet her educational and financial needs.
Like many students facing rising higher education costs, Montgomery knew scholarships were her only chance of attending a four-year university. While crunching numbers and comparing schools, she found Texas Tech University and hasn't looked back.
As an out-of-state student, scholarships at Texas Tech present a unique opportunity for Montgomery.
At Texas Tech, an out-of-state student who receives a competitive academic scholarship of at least $1,000 for the year qualifies for in-state tuition rates. Because of this, and other scholarship awards, she has been able to cover 100% of her tuition and fees during her undergraduate career.
“I ended up going to Tech because some other higher education opportunities didn't work out from the financial aspect of things,” Montgomery said. “I also knew a lot of out-of-state students from my area — and from New Mexico in general — who were able to go to Tech and financially make it work. So, after looking into it, I thought that Texas Tech could support me, and I'm obviously very glad they did.”
Not Your Average Classroom
Through her coursework and several experiential learning opportunities, Montgomery has discovered a passion for environmental journalism and scientific communication.
“One thing that I've found out through my education, and also the field opportunities I've been able to do, is I'm very interested in becoming an environmental journalist,” Montgomery said. “Using scientific communication to convey very important issues regarding climate and the environment and conveying that accurately and effectively to the public excites me.”
Montgomery said some of her most transformative experiences while in college have come from opportunities outside of a traditional classroom. In the last several months, she has participated in Adventure Media and more recently a study abroad program to Iceland.
“I've done Adventure Media and studying abroad in Iceland through the College of Media and Communications,” Montgomery said. “Those experiences allowed me to get exposed to what it's like to have a different concentration in journalism. I always knew I liked to write; I always knew that I wanted to do something in that field, and then combining those two passions is what helped lead me to environmental journalism.”
Adventure Media is a class designed to offer students practical experience in producing media associated with outdoor adventure. This year's trek took students over 150 miles by bicycle on the Monumental Loop in the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument in southern New Mexico.
“Despite adventure media being the biggest challenge I have ever faced, I am easily the most proud of that experience,” Montgomery said. “I walked away from that class with a new hobby, a group of peers turned friends, and exposure to an unconventional style of storytelling that I want to continue pursuing.”
Iceland provided a completely different experience than the dry heat of New Mexico. Montgomery and the rest of the Texas Tech group spent 17 days in the chilly northern European country learning about geo-tourism, conservation, climate activism, natural Icelandic landscapes, travel photography and more.
Both experiences have various costs associated with them, but once again, Montgomery was able to take advantage of scholarship opportunities and cover the extra expenses.
“I've always had an interest in studying abroad,” Montgomery said, “but I didn't know where I wanted to go or what program I wanted to do until I met Dr. Foster and Dr. Peaslee who were promoting a trip to Iceland, studying media tourism and photography.
“After I got accepted to the program, the next thing was figuring out how I was going to pay for it. I'm very, very thankful that I did get scholarships through the College of Media Communication, which helped fund my trip to go there. Iceland ended up being an amazing experience and it helped me better hone in on what I want to do professionally.”
The Extra Mile
Moving away from her rural upbringing to pursue an education at Texas Tech, Montgomery was determined to chase every opportunity to the fullest, whether that meant getting involved in extracurricular activities on campus or working to build her professional resume.
“As somebody who's just naturally an introvert and who hasn't been able to experience a lot, Texas Tech has been the segue to allow me to experience the things that I want to be able to,” Montgomery said. “For example, studying abroad and traveling to a different country was something that I never thought I would be able to do. But because I had the mentorship of Dr. Foster, Dr. Peaslee and my peers, that gave me the confidence to hopefully travel again and do more things like that.”
Even with all her success and involvement during her time at Texas Tech so far, things haven't always been easy. As a first-generation student, neither of Montgomery's parents have traditional higher education experiences, so she so she had to utilize resources that Texas Tech provided on her own.
“It is hard being a first-generation student,” Montgomery said. “Not having the experience of your parents, and not having the support financially or emotionally from your parents just because they're doing this for the first time too through you is challenging.”
Montgomery relied on financial aid services to help navigate the cost of college along with other resources like tuition calculators. When her scholarship offers came in from Texas Tech, she knew that was the moment she would be able to attend school.
"That was very comforting to me, because I didn't know if I was going to be able to make it work,” Montgomery said. “I didn't know if I was going have to move home, or if I was going to have to work multiple jobs just to survive.
“The first time that everything was completely covered, and I got a refund check from financial aid it felt very rewarding and it felt very fulfilling because it It's a combination of the work that I've put in and the work that donors have put in to make sure students like me are able to be financially free throughout an after college.”
Outside of the classroom, Montgomery has been working in the Texas Tech University SystemOffice of the Chancellor for the past year as a communications and design intern where she focuses on writing stories, letters and social media posts. She plans to continue working for the office throughout her senior year.
She was also recently selected to serve as Planet Forward Correspondent for the upcoming academic year where she will produce a journalistic portfolio with a focus on the environment.
Looking forward to her final semesters, Montgomery will finish up her internship requirements for her journalism degree and hopes to take on a few more non-traditional learning opportunities.
“I'm hoping to do a couple more field experiences with Dr. Foster, whether that's Adventure Media a second time or going to Junction right after I graduate,” Montgomery said. “Those are things that I'm hoping to do just to get the most out of my college experience.”
“When my advisor told me that I could graduate early, that's when I started tacking on minors,” she said with a laugh. “I didn't want to graduate early, because I finally found a groove of things financially and educationally. And I wanted to stay for as long as I could, within reason.”
Wishes for Future Red Raiders
As a student who discovered Texas Tech, in part because of peers before her, Montgomery hopes anyone considering Tech knows how many opportunities and resources are available to students.
“There are so many opportunities available to you,” Montgomery said. “If you are willing to reach out and willing to work hard, then you can definitely pursue an education at Texas Tech. There are so many people who are there to help you.”
Reflecting on her own experiences, Montgomery knows donors are one of the many people at Texas Tech who are there to help and generosity has played a critical role in enabling students to overcome financial barriers and pursue their education.
“If you're worried from a financial aspect, there are so many people who have dedicated their lives to philanthropy and making sure that students can get an education that is worth looking into,” Montgomery said. “I didn't think I was going to be able to make it four years. I thought I was going to transfer home and find a more affordable means of education, but I was able to make it work because of those people.
“I wouldn't be able to complete four years of undergrad as an out of state, first-generation student from a rural community without the help of others.”