Choosing to attend UT Martin for her two undergraduate degrees was an easy decision for recent graduate Kiara Champion, but she didn’t know how much the school she would call home would affect her.
“Something in me said, I’ll go to Martin,” Champion said adding that she had looked at some other schools. “I thought, you know it’s a good school, it’s different.”
The Humboldt native received two bachelor’s degrees during fall 2012 commencement exercises and was one of two graduates to receive the Paul and Martha Meek Leadership Award during commencement. The award is the only award presented during commencement.
Champion took advantage of numerous activities and leadership opportunities during her time at UT Martin. She was active in the business honors fraternity Beta Gamma Sigma, the honor and service organization Gamma Beta Phi, and intramural volleyball. She was the vice-president of the Rotaract Community Service Organization and also contributed in the fight against cancer, working as co-chair and activities and entertainment co-chair of UTM’s Relay for Life team.
She also served as a PEP leader for three years, helping new freshman make the transition to college life.
“My students have left a huge mark on me. To see them now and know that I had a helping hand in their success …” Champion said, describing the success some of her past students have enjoyed. “It’s just so great to see that I can have that kind of impact.”
Champion was also successful in the classroom, as she received two degrees on graduation day, one in information systems and another in accounting.
“I want to use technology and I want to help people. Those are the two main things I want to do,” she said, adding that she is able to use both information technology and accounting skills at her campus job in the Office of Business Affairs where she works as IT specialist II.
Her classes helped a great deal to prepare her for real world environments.
“We had to build a website in one class, and our client was The Looking Glass [coffee shop] downtown … and in another information systems class I took we had to do research projects, so I did mine about cyber bullying and its different effects,” Champion said. “What really hit me the most with that is how prevalent it is … technology is great but we have to be aware of its misuses.”
Champion also credits her professors for her knowledge gained.
“They’ve helped prepare me immensely. They’re great, they take every chance they get to try to teach you. A lot of times evaluations ask how the professor related to real life situations, well it all relates to real life. Because you’re going to be using this forever,” she said.
Overall, Champion described her experience at UT Martin as,
“I can tell you for sure I am not the same person as I was in the fall of 2008 … each opportunity left a different impact on me, between PEP leader and intramural volleyball and getting involved in different things. It made me grow into a more social, more outgoing person,” she said. “I can really say I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I went anywhere else.”