Approximately 17,000 students attend Eastern Kentucky University. To some, that number may just be another statistic, but to many incoming freshmen, it can be overwhelming, at first.
Melissa Bellamy, who recently delivered the student commencement address for the College of Health Sciences, was part of the latter group. As she walked onto campus for the first time, she was in awe at the thousands of personalities, interests and talents that surrounded her, and worried that she would become a nameless face in the crowd. However, with the dedication and encouragement of her professors, advisers and even President Michael Benson himself, Bellamy quickly felt at home.
“It’s hard to fathom how you can stand out in a sea of students,” she said, “but at EKU, to the faculty, each person is more than just a number.”
The Kettering, Ohio, native explained that several times over the last four years she felt she had hit a road-block, with no way forward to graduation. But, in every moment of despair, her professors offered words of wisdom, affirmation and guidance.
“The faculty of EKU took notice and constantly reassured me,” she said. “With their constant encouragement, I did not give up when I felt that I hit rock bottom. I kept on getting up and pushing forward.”
Bellamy will always remember the openness and positivity of the faculty, one of her favorite parts about the university. She recalled the countless afternoons spent in professors’ offices, as they helped her review material she didn’t understand, offered study tips, or just held a casual conversation in hopes of truly getting to know their students.
“We aren’t just a number to them or a means to a paycheck,” she said. “They genuinely care.”
Bellamy gave equal praise to Benson, who, she said, has made it his mission to fully embrace the student body in person, and not just from the comfort of his office. In his four years as president of the University, Benson has been seen taking a pie to the face for charity, snapping selfies with students, and even shoveling a commuter’s snow-covered driveway.
Though Bellamy is sad to leave EKU, and promised to always be an “Eternal Colonel” at heart, she is very excited to start her next chapter. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in athletic training, Bellamy plans to obtain a master’s degree in the same subject from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. During that time, she will also complete a graduate assistantship with Baptist Health Sports Medicine in San Antonio, working as an athletic trainer for a local middle school.
In addition to her educational feats, Bellamy was recently commissioned as second lieutenant in the United States Army National Guard, in the Medical Service Branch.
Bellamy concluded her speech by once again crediting her accomplishments to the school that has shaped her life for the last four years.
“Without the support and constant reassurance from EKU, I can’t say for sure that I would be standing here with you today. Thank you, faculty, for caring and reaching out to us when we had struggles and felt like the stress was crushing us to dust. Thank you to our president, who actually cares about the student body and knows that the key to a university’s success rests with us.”
-- by Yasmin White, Student Writer, EKU Communications & Brand Management