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Honduras and Finland are a long way from Brantwood, an unincorporated community of 399 in Wisconsin's Northwoods. But these are some of the unusual places that Shannon Kring Buset has lived in recent years. Since her graduation from Lakeland in 1996 with a double major in psychology and writing, Shannon has had some incredible experiences, and she shows no signs of letting fear of the unknown keep her from leaping toward the next great adventure that life brings her. On November 4 and 5, Shannon will make a stop "back home" to be one of the featured writers at this year's Great Lakes Writers Festival.
A small town girl who always had big dreams, Shannon recalls receiving a Lakeland brochure in the mail. "It was made of a heavyweight sage-green paper through which a picture of Old Main's tower peeked from a gold-embossed window frame. My first thought was I want to go there. My second thought was I'll never be able to afford it."
The help of scholarships and student employment opportunities on campus made attending Lakeland possible, and Shannon took full advantage of everything Lakeland offers. She partly financed her education through writing contests, grants and working as a writing tutor and as a conversation partner in the ESL department. "That was my first taste of working with people from cultures other than my own, and the lessons learned there help me still today." She was involved in over a dozen campus organizations, including stints as editor-in-chief of The Lakeland College Mirror and assistant editor of the literary journal, "Seems."
Karl Elder, Fessler Professor of Creative Writing at Lakeland and GLWF organizer, says of Shannon, "I remember that immediately after Shannon's first visit to my office, I stood there for a moment, thinking, Fasten your seatbelt, Elder. You're going for a ride. Dumb me. Since Billy Joel was popular, I was talking something like 'uptown.' She was thinking 'intercontinental.'"
In 2005, Shannon was the recipient of the Lakeland College Outstanding Recent Alumni award at Homecoming. Elder said of her in his remarks, "Shannon is her own recipe for success: there's a precise pinch of the devil in this angel, a playfulness in her person, who hates to admit she enjoys collaboration as much as working in isolation, who, while supremely self-confident, refuses to take herself too seriously."
Shannon reports that some of her fondest memories of her college days took place within Old Main, "the building that lured me to Lakeland in the first place. I loved what took place within the building, and I loved watching the changing of the seasons outside of it."
She also remembers many professors, in addition to Karl Elder, including Martha Schott, Shelly Nygaard, Keith Striggow, David Kent and "the late, great Reinhard Ulrich." And although she only had Al Wangemann for one class, she remembers, "we had a special relationship that I only wish I'd nurtured more at the time. Today, my research into the Classic Maya is something I'd love to discuss with him." Shannon also credits campus chaplain David Lauer as being the first teacher to encourage her to express thoughts and behaviors that so many of the teachers of her youth had tried to squash.
For 11 months after leaving Lakeland, Shannon worked at a Sheboygan radio station. She wrote and voiced commercials, sold airtime, and represented the station at community events. She recounts, "One day, I woke up and thought to myself I want to have my own marketing and PR company. Much to the dismay of those around me, I hung up my shingle. Much to their surprise, it worked." Very quickly, Shannon landed several accounts for hospitals and hotels, USA Triathlon, and was the advertising manager for the 1998 U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler.
In late 1998, Shannon's professional endeavors brought European Master Chef Marcel Biró into her life. They fell in love, married and together founded an integrated cuisine company that included a national Emmy Award-winning PBS reality-cooking series, two acclaimed restaurants and two culinary schools for home and professional chefs, award-winning cookbooks, a major cookware and QVC deal, and much more. But then life took a turn. Shannon and her husband split, and she went on the quest of a lifetime. "I left everything behind and moved to a remote village of 6,000 on the Honduras-Guatemala border. I brought with me just one suitcase and three goals: to heal my heart, to reconnect with my spirituality and to discover my higher purpose."
She managed to do just that. Shannon has made a career out of her hobbies: travel, cuisine, writing, television, nature, spirituality and talking. "I used to get in trouble for the latter in class at Lakeland," she quips. "Now I get paid for it."
Today, Shannon is a frequent keynote speaker at events throughout North and Central America, Europe and Asia, and her work has been featured on NPR, PBS, CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, Lifetime and in more than 150 leading publications including The Wall Street Journal, SmartMoney Magazine, TV Guide, Redbook and the New York Post. She has authored three cookbooks and with her sister, Natalie Kring, co-authored the memoir Sister Salty, Sister Sweet. Shannon is now married to Knut Inge Buset, and resides most of the year in Helsinki, Finland. She is the co-founder of a multimedia company that is dedicated to demystifying, preserving and promoting ancient wisdom. While completing her first novel, Shannon is also writing and producing a documentary film on the ancient Maya.
"I cannot express how delighted I was to set foot on Lakeland's campus-which to this small-town girl seemed big-and meet other kids who thought they were meant for something more than picking a career and sticking with it. Thanks to both the impressive faculty-student ratio and the quality of Lakeland's instructors, my talents were recognized, encouraged and refined."
The encouragement she received at Lakeland, combined with her own positive outlook, has helped her pursue her life's mission; as she puts it, to "bridge the gap between professional success and personal fulfillment, and to inspire individuals to embrace a more soulful existence."
As for advice to new graduates, she says, "Don't settle. I know there are endless horror stories out there of no jobs, but if you're patient, if you never lose sight of your dreams, if you set pure intentions, and if you do the hard work required of you, you will absolutely land a great job. Once you're in it, don't coast. Take risks. Challenge yourself. Dare to try what others call impossible."
Shannon will be on campus for the Great Lakes Writers Festival on November 4-5. You can also reach her by email at email@example.com.