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From prepping a kitchen to preparing for life

In the morning, Kristen Wright comes in to work at Maplestreet Station. She preps the kitchen for the day, turning on all of the equipment to heat up before preparing the fried rice, General Tso's chicken, dumplings and other fare for lunch at Pacific Rim.

During her years at Miami, she's worked at a few different campus locations, like Bell Tower and the Marcum Center, but she said Maplestreet Station seems to have a particularly good environment. This is her second year as a cook at the location.

"I really like working here," she said. "I feel like the environment is very positive. Even when it's busy and even when people are stressed out we do really work well together."

The flexibility in her hours at work, she noted, has been very helpful to her as a graduate student and mother of a 1-year-old girl.

To balance full-time employment, motherhood and her education, she said she is finishing her graduate degree by taking one course a semester.

She first came to Miami in 2002, pursuing a degree in education with a minor in French but, with just her student teaching left to complete, was forced to withdraw from school because of her health. Wright found out she has a connective tissue disorder with symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis.

When she was able to go back to school, she said her passion wasn't in education anymore. After going to specialist after specialist for treatment and seeing friends undergo similar situations, she was determined to help people in her position to achieve health holistically.

She finished her Bachelor's degree in Health Promotion and is now in the process of completing Miami's Health Promotion graduate program. When talking about her career goals after Miami, she spoke with absolute assurance.

"In my dream world I would be working with chronic illness patients to manage their health and not just their symptoms," she said.

To achieve that goal, after finishing her degree, she'll probably move closer to Cincinnati. For now, though, she enjoys being here. She met her husband here at Miami; she's made her friends here. She brings her daughter around campus sometimes and takes her to the Mini University childcare center when she's working.

At work, she said, she often feels like a big sister to the younger employees.

It will take another three years of working and taking classes before she earns her degree, but she smiled when she talked about that day.

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"It will definitely all be worth it."