Starla Cochenour pushes for change

Pushing herself: Starla Cochenour came to Washburn looking for a good mix between a small community and a big environment. Starla has since decided to push herself out of her comfort zone and encourage others to do the same.

Junior communication studies major Starla Cochenour came to Washburn from Sabetha, Kansas. Her goals are to graduate and find a career in higher education.

“I remember touring about five different colleges,” said Cochenour. “At Washburn, I did junior and senior days and Ichabods at Night. I stayed in the Zeta Tau Alpha house and had so much fun. Every time I was at Washburn, I made really great connections with the admission staff and felt very at home.”

Cochenour was attracted to Washburn’s small community feel and surrounding big city atmosphere.

“When I was looking at colleges, I wanted something that felt like a hometown, but wasn’t a small rural community like I had grown up in. Here on campus, you still know almost everyone. Outside of Washburn though, there’s an entire city of people you don’t know and activities to do,” said Cochenour. “I don’t feel trapped, rather, it’s somewhere I can also branch out if I want to. Even on campus, I get chances to meet new people every day. It’s a cool dynamic.”

Taking this perspective into her involvement on campus, Cochenour is a student worker in the admissions office and is an RA at Lincoln Hall third West. She is also a member of Queers and Allies, is vice-president of membership recruitment for Alpha Phi and will be a summer orientation counselor intern this summer. 

“I have really loved college so far, so I just decided that I never want to leave,” said Cochenour. “I’m planning on going to grad school after I graduate to study student affairs. I’m not sure yet which path I want to take, but there’s so many different facets I could choose from. Some of the things I’ve considered are residential living, student activities, Greek life and study abroad.”

One of Cochenour’s favorite things about Washburn is the way that faculty care for students. Through personal experience, she has seen the effects of staff recognizing students as more than just a number.

“I love that everyone is so friendly here,” said Cochenour. “The professors are so open to reaching out to you when you need help and they make it easy to approach them for anything. My first semester here, I was struggling around midterms and not acting like myself. One of my professors noticed this and reached out. I don’t think I would get that at a different university.”

Jack Van Dan was Cochenour’s RA her first year at Washburn and is now one of her bosses in the Residential Living office.

“Right from the get-go, I knew Starla was going to be absolutely amazing to have as a resident,” said Van Dan. “She came to campus and immediately got involved and had more energy and excitement than the rest of our hall combined. She now likes to joke that we both got promoted; herself as an RA and myself as the Residence Life Coordinator for the LLC. It is so incredibly fun to work with students you know you have had a positive impact on and see them follow in your footsteps.”

As her motto and advice for other students, Cochenour recognizes the importance of pushing yourself.

“If you are within your bubble of comfort at all times, you’re not going to grow as a person,” said Cochenour. “If I can leave Washburn having let someone challenge themselves and their way of thinking in some way, that’s the legacy I’d like to leave behind. Accepting that people have different view points than me has been something that challenges me and puts me outside of my comfort zone.”