June 15, 2006
Like so many Bobcats graduating this spring, Kelly Vermeeren remembers the difficulties of adjusting to life in college, the challenge of accepting a new place as your own and the moment she realized she belonged at Ohio University.
"I was driving back to campus. It was after winter break my sophomore year," she says. "As I drove down Route 33, and I saw all of campus to my right, I thought, 'This is my home.'"
"Coming here was a huge challenge for me. I felt like I needed to be challenged again, and I felt like if I stayed close to home, I wouldn't be expanding my wings," Vermeeren says. "I think that you need challenges in life; it shows you who you are."
While at Ohio University, Vermeeren dedicated herself to several extracurricular activities, with her experience as a member of the Student Alumni Board (SAB) being the most rewarding. In her junior year, Vermeeren served as the organization's vice president of the Student Outreach Committee and was in charge of the creation and execution of the university's first "March to the MAC" basketball pep rally.
"It was really intense," she says of planning the brand-new event. "Hopefully, in the future this will be a part of Ohio University tradition. It's really cool because I can be like 'yeah I was one of the first people to do that.'"
As a member of SAB and a student employee at Konneker Alumni Center, Vermeeren understands the positive impact active alumni have on Ohio University students and the vital role former students play in filling the gap between the university and the workplace. This realization created in her a strong desire to help create an Ohio University alumni chapter in New Orleans, where she'll be attending graduate school.
Even though she will be far from Ohio, Vermeeren will always remember the friends she made, events she planned and that drive down Route 33.
One of the most unexpected friendships that Vermeeren developed at Ohio University was with Barbara Reeves, former associate provost for academic affairs. While perusing the university's Web site, she noticed Reeves' name and decided to give her a call -- Vermeeren remembered that her mother, Dixie, and Reeves were high school friends in New Orleans. Having lost touch over the years, neither knew that the other lived in Ohio.
Pleasantly surprised by the call, Reeves and Vermeeren formed a lasting friendship.
And although her time here has come to an end, Vermeeren says, "Athens is always going to have a place in my heart."
Vermeeren graduated on June 10 with a bachelor's degree in hearing and speech sciences. Though she will miss Athens, the self-proclaimed "city girl" is looking forward to making a new start in New Orleans as she pursues her doctorate of audiology at the Louisiana State University Health Science Center.
Melissa Evans is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.