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Passion for Goats, Gilmore Girls, and Alaska

Pictured above, Knowles enjoys the beautiful landscape in Sitka, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Knowles)

Terrified she would get caught, future SAU senior Hannah Knowles with her aunt and uncle snuck through Cosgrove Hall’s doors while masked students and parents moved their belongings out. It wasn’t the end of the semester, but the global pandemic forced students to leave campus in April 2020. Her scheduled visit had been canceled and she had committed to attend SAU already, but she had to sneak a quick peek of her future home. “Seeing campus, I was impressed… but it was really weird just seeing everyone moving out, we didn’t get to talk to anyone or ask any questions.”

Four years later, Knowles is a combined political science and math senior at St. Ambrose. She is from a small town, Petersburg, Illinois, about two and half hours east of campus. 

Her decision to attend SAU was a spontaneous choice she says contrasts her typical controlled, highly planned decisions made in her childhood and teenage years. 

Knowles says her personality is completely different now from when she was a kid. When she was younger, she didn’t dare go about anything without a clear plan. This structure even applied to hanging out with her friends. 

Knowles laughs as she recalls a birthday party when she was 11. “Any time a friend would come over, I would write out a schedule, like down to the minute… And none of my friends wanted to do that, obviously… so me and my other friend just sat inside and cried all night.” 

She says her reputation for being “uptight” followed her into high school, and Knowles says she was very quiet during her teen years. She expresses how she relates to the character Rory from the TV show Gilmore Girls, who also felt the need to plan and organize everything.

Knowles says she connects to Rory’s relationship with her mother Lorelai in the show. Knowles says, “Lorelai and my mom are… a little more easygoing, and Rory and I are both you know, planners, we like to stick to what the plan is, we like to be prepared.” 

She says her relationship with her mom has always been complex. In junior high, Knowles’ parents divorced, which significantly affected Knowles and her two younger brothers. Her mom had always been a stay-at-home mom, but after the divorce she moved two hours away to finish nursing school. “I was used to seeing her everyday, and telling her every little thought that was in my head. It was an adjustment, and I felt pretty alone.”

Even today they have their differences, but their mutual love remains. Knowles smiles, “Especially like the way she [Rory] leaned on her mom, and Lorelai was always there, I feel that way about my mom.” 

Knowles said her life continued to parallel Rory’s character, as she watched her graduate high school and become more comfortable in her own skin during college. “We saw a huge transformation in Rory… her really relax, and just feel comfortable with herself, and really confident… I feel like that’s the stage of life I’m in now,” Knowles says. “But when I first watched Gilmore Girls, a few years ago, I wasn’t there yet, but that’s where I wanted to be… If Rory has this life, and she can do it, I can do it too.” She says she never thought she would get to that point, but Knowles has flourished since starting college. 

She is a third year Resident Assistant (RA), and is both a tutor and a receptionist at the Student Success Center (SSC). Knowles brings a welcoming presence to all of these positions. Will Haugen, a mutual friend of Knowles and this reporter, also works in the SSC. “She’s very go with the flow…takes things as she can.” Haugen says. “She just makes everyone feel immediately like they’re her best friend.”

Knowles is also a hardworking student and is beloved by her professors. Dr. Jim Baumann, a communications and media professor at St. Ambrose, has had Knowles in his classes since her freshman year. He says Knowles has matured since starting college, but one thing that has never changed is how hard she works. “She is a machine when it comes to work,” Baumann says. 

Another sign of Knowles’ increasing spontaneity is her job last summer, when she worked for a fishing lodge in Sitka, Alaska. She says the first time she went to Alaska was in 2022 when she took her grandpa on an Alaskan cruise. “It was amazing. He had so much fun, I had so much fun, and I fell in love with Alaska. The weather is beautiful, the scenery is beautiful… Since then I’ve been thinking about wanting to get back up there.” This experience encouraged her to go back to Alaska for the summer of 2023. 

Photo courtesy of Hannah Knowles. Pictured above, Knowles and her grandpa on her first trip to Alaska.

Working in Sitka over the summer was a big deal for Knowles. Not only did she get to experience the beautiful Alaskan landscape, but she strayed from the controlled, “uptight” manner that she was known for. She says that she would love to live in Alaska if it was not so expensive. 

Looking towards the future, Knowles says one of her dream jobs is to work for the Red Cross or a similar organization. “I feel like I’m a really good leader, and I’m a good organizer. In terms of…high stress situations, where there’s lots of needs and…lots of problems, I can be really good at figuring them out.”

Another dream Knowles has thought about is to have a goat farm. “I had goats most of my childhood, and they’re just fun. They’re like more resilient dogs. They’re amazing.” 

Knowles says she has gained confidence and comfortability in herself throughout her time at SAU. As for her next steps, she’s not quite sure yet. “Somebody somewhere said a quote that says, ‘Do the next right thing and the rest will fall into place,’ so that’s what I’m trying to do.” Knowles will graduate in May, and although she is not certain of what happens next, she is positive that she can take on whatever that is.