Kelly Armour thinks of her four years at Eastern Kentucky University as a book: a triumphant tale with an ending that surprised even its author. She gave its synopsis to fellow graduates of the College of Business and Technology in her commencement address on May 11.
When Armour first came to the University from Butler, Kentucky, she thought her book might be titled “Four Years of Failure,” or “How to Ruin Your Future in Just Four Short Years.” Fortunately, “my book has turned out far better than I ever could have hoped for,” she said.
Chapter 1 began freshman year. As is the case for many students, Armour’s first year of college proved to be an adjustment. More than 90 miles from her home, family and childhood friends, she feared failing to make new friends. With a college-level workload, she feared failing classes. “Fear stopped me from living up to my full potential that year,” she said. “As much as I was in love with EKU, I did not fully grasp the opportunities it offered me.” Armour held that the first chapter of her story reads as a cautionary tale, teaching its readers never to let fear hold them back.
Chapter 2 encompassed Armour’s sophomore year. Carrying with her the lessons learned the previous year, the agriculture education major began to expand her horizons. “After sitting in my dorm room for a year,” she said, “I finally decided to get involved and see what EKU had to offer me.” She started an intramural volleyball team with her roommates, joined the Agriculture Club and Kentucky Education Association (KEA) and attended a variety of school-sponsored events. The moral of that chapter, she decided, was “don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.”
The junior year chapter was where the climax began. “College became less about ‘what happens if I fail?’ but instead became ‘how successful can I be?’” said Armour. That year, she transformed from spectator to leader. She was elected president of the Agriculture Club and vice president of KEA. In addition, she participated in research projects and became an ambassador for the agriculture department. “My lesson from chapter 3: when you are not afraid of failure, you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.”
The latest chapter, senior year, served as a transition to a future story. “Over the past four years, EKU has truly become our home,” Armour said. “I learned how to step out of my comfort zone and be who I truly am.” She did not learn that alone, however. She credited the faculty of the agriculture department with deepening her love of agriculture. Specifically, she thanked her adviser, Dr. Mike McDermott, “for seeing the potential in me and pushing me to be a better student every day.
“With the training and mentoring I have received here at EKU, and in the College of Business and Technology, I am ready to face the challenges of a career in agriculture education,” said Armour. That training gave her the confidence to proclaim the lesson of chapter four: “Don’t be afraid to succeed in your career – because we’re about to do it!”
In hindsight, Armour realized that her book should have been titled “Failure Was Never an Option.” But her story is far from over. “I know my story will continue to evolve, and the title may change many times, but I learned at EKU that there won’t be any chapters or titles or paragraphs that contain the phrase ‘I gave up,’” she declared.
In a 2008 commencement address to Harvard University, author J.K. Rowling advised the graduates: “Don’t be afraid to fail. It can lead to success.” As she continues her own masterpiece, Armour has resolved to follow her favorite author’s advice. “Fear of failure held me back for many years of my life,” she said. Thanks to her education, that is no longer the case for Armour or her classmates. “EKU has given us the tools to succeed in life, and to author our own stories of success.”
-- by Madison Harris, Student Writer, EKU Communications & Brand Management