Hometown: Newport, Wales (United Kingdom)
High School: University Hospital of Wales
Degree: Integrated studies-human services
Kieran Watkins is seeking his bachelor’s degree in integrated studies (human resources) at Murray State. This is his story.
Who has influenced you the most in your life and why?
On being made redundant from Lliswerry Steel Works in South Wales, my father found himself back in adult education around the same age that I am now. Like myself, he had the knowledge and skills to work in a particular field, but no formal qualifications to allow him to do so. He worked by day, studied in the evening and eventually gained the appropriate documents. These made no difference to his work ethic or indeed the quality of his work, but allowed him to move from tending to a boiler room in a shopping mall to being the property and maintenance manager for a fortified medieval manor house set on 400 acres of land.
For 13 years, I worked as a registered psychiatric nurse in the United Kingdom, however, my qualifications did not simply transfer to the U.S. I am now following in my father's steps by working 55 hours a week and studying to achieve a better life for my son and I.
What first sparked your interest in your chosen field?
Human services holds within it many care-related avenues that one can take. That was very important to me, in fact it would have been a dealbreaker. I naturally gravitate towards a caring or helping role be it as a nurse, hypnotherapist, volunteer firefighter or paraprofessional. I have tried working in jobs which do not have that supportive element, but I just did not fit in. My educational choices and end degree had to reflect that part of my personality and human services does just that.
What do you want to do after graduation?
I am considering returning for a master’s degree in counselling or the alternative certification in education.
Why did you select Murray State?
Murray State has a long history of academic excellence and a sound reputation with the people of Murray. Even though I study mostly online, the convenience of its location means that if needed I can drop in on-campus and speak directly to someone who can help.
Who is one of your favorite professors and why?
That's a tough one. I'm going to cheat and call it a draw between my English professor Cara Mathis and my advisor Marla Poyner. As anyone who has ever owned a cat can vouch, at approximately 2.30 a.m. every morning, your feline companion can no longer hold in the pent-up energy it has stored throughout the day. Its only option is to engage its fail safe mechanism and release that energy by running at full speed in random directions around the house like a furry NASCAR. Professor Mathis is that cat.
In just one lesson, she showed more energy, interest and gusto than all of my previous English teachers put together. What was even more evident was the fact that while she was teaching, she was having fun. Professor Mathis gave me huge amounts of help, confidence and encouragement with my work. You can see the genuine enthusiasm she has for teaching the subject, and always has a smile on her face and a positive word to say about her students.
Professor Poyner has an almost “Terminator: Judgment Day” approach to any obstacle that comes between the degree and I. Professor Poyner is a mine of information and knows the BIS degree inside and out while showing both enthusiasm and confidence in the program.
She has also displayed the almost inhuman ability to multitask and ignore a top quality gluten-free cookie when placed on her desk and directly in her line of sight. She recognizes the need for education, but also that the student is worth more than the degree itself. She has worked tirelessly making sure I am both personally and educationally sound, and without her encouragement I would not be in my third semester or writing this now.
What is one of your favorite Murray State traditions/experiences?
The shoe tree. I have tried to explain it to friends back home, but they can't get around the fact that "people have accosted a tree with their footwear, and ended up nailing them to it?" I think the meaning and pathos gets lost in translation, you have to see the tree to get a sense of what it represents to both past and present students alike.
What is something you've accomplished at Murray State that you're most proud of and why are you proud of it?
Passing Eng 105 in fine form springs to mind. It had been over 30 years since I had sat in an English class, and even then my grades were acceptable at best. I was actually worried that the Eng 105 class would be the beginning of the end of my degree. However, quite the opposite occurred with one piece of work being signed over to the university for instructional purposes, and my first piece of writing discussed in terms of possible publication. Professor Mathis can work wonders, even if you’re Welsh.
What do you think sets Murray State apart from other universities?
The fact that you are seen as a person with strengths, weaknesses, hopes and dreams and not just a number or a sum of money floating from class to class. If you skip class, don't do the assignments on time and treat the tests lightly then there is a good chance you’re going to fail, and you deserve to. However, if you are struggling with work, but showing commitment to your education then the faculty will do its utmost to support you and help you succeed.
Other universities treat all failing students the same, no matter if the failure comes from the students’ own lack of effort or struggling with the source material. I cannot see Murray State just abandoning a student who is trying their best and needing a helping hand.
For a prospective student considering which college to attend, why do you think they should consider attending Murray State?
It's a growing, developing college with plenty of opportunities to study and socialize. However, in my experience, Murray State has not lost sight of what is really important, which are the students.