The UK Alumni Association is excited to introduce the Alumni Ambassador Spotlight Series. The UK Alumni Association will spotlight an ambassador each week on social media and share their stories on News from the Blue as part of this series.
Sara Khandani, a senior from Lexington, KY is pursuing a degree in biology on the Pre-Medicine track while also pursuing a minor in business. In addition to her studies, Sara has been involved on campus in a number of ways!
She has served UK Student Government Association as a Senator for the College of Arts and Sciences and as a member of the Academic and Student Affairs Committee, is a member of the Iranian Student Association, Delta Zeta Sorority, and the Lewis Honors College and has participated in DanceBlue since Freshman year, in addition to serving as a UK Alumni Ambassador.
“Serving as an Alumni Ambassador has given us students the opportunity to share our unique views and experiences as a UK students with current students, alumni and prospective students,” Khandani said, “UK is invested in their students, alumni, staff and friends and this is clearly demonstrated by the goals of the Kentucky Can Campaign.”
Sara has always had a heart for helping people. As a little girl she dreamed of being a neurologist and as she got older, her focus has shifted from neurology to women’s health issues but she has stayed true to her dream of being a doctor!
When asked to reflect back over her last three years at UK, she notes that speaking at the “Kentucky Can” Campaign Launch in the fall of 2018 was her favorite memory as a student because she was honored to be part of such a historic night for the university.
After graduation, Sara is studying abroad in Copenhagen for the summer before beginning medical school in the fall. After medical school, she says she would love to participate in a Teach for America program for a year before working full time as a physician specializing in women’s health.
A fun fact about Sara is that she and her family lived in Iran for 10 years before moving to the United States! When asked how this experience has shaped her, she attributes her love for travel and exploring culture to her own experience coming from Iran to the U.S.
“Having lived in a different country for half of my life, I have grown to appreciate traveling and exploring different cultures when given the time and opportunity,” said Khandani when asked what the impact of living in another country has had on her!
McKaylee Copher, a Lexington native, is a junior at the University of Kentucky currently pursuing a degree in Agricultural and Medical Biotechnology. When McKaylee was a little girl, she wanted to be a Judge when she grew up and now that she is older, she is making that dream a reality! Following her undergraduate career at UK, she plans to participate in a doctoral program with a focus in epigenetics and eventually use her skill set to work in Agricultural Policy.
McKaylee has excelled as a student at UK, being both a Singletary Scholar and a Chellgren Fellow. She has had the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research through the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, be a member of the Lewis Honors College and serve as both a Wildcat Ambassador and as an Alumni Ambassador. McKaylee also had the opportunity to participate in a study abroad course that toured across Europe last summer and highlights this experience as one of her favorite memories as a UK student!
She enjoys being an Alumni Ambassador because it gives her the opportunity to connect with alumni and prospective students and she is able to share her love and appreciation for UK and the support they give students.
“The Alumni Ambassadors bridge the gap between current students and alumni and that is extremely important,” she said, “sharing what we love about UK and how alumni support makes a difference for students is so important.”
In addition to her academic endeavors, McKaylee is also passionate about service to others! She is a member of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, participates in Alternative Service Breaks, volunteers regularly in the Lexington community and is a member of Chi Omega sorority. Alternative Service breaks, coordinated by the Center for Community Outreach, allow students to use their university breaks to spend time serving a cause they are passionate about. McKaylee says that these impactful trips have been a wonderful experience for her because it gives her the chance to dive into a region and address a social issue that impacts them the most.
Some things she looks forward to with the last year and a half that she has left as an undergraduate student, is attending as many midnight hockey games as possible and participating in the DanceBlue 24-hour dance marathon benefiting the Golden Matrix fund at Kentucky Children’s Hospital!
Amy Langford, a native of Hickman, KY is a senior at UK pursuing a degree in biology on the Pre-Optometry track while also pursuing a minor in business. In addition to her studies, Alex has been involved on campus in a number of ways!
She has served on the DanceBlue Family Relations Committee, as the President of the Pre-Optometry Club, as a UK Visitor Center tour guide, a member of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority and has been involved with the Christian Student Fellowship (CSF), in addition to serving as a UK Alumni Ambassador.
“Serving as an Alumni Ambassador has been a great opportunity and I would tell anyone who is interested to definitely apply,” she said, “this has been a great way to meet other driven upperclassmen in addition to meeting alumni, faculty and staff of the university. If you’re proud of UK and of being a student here, then this is a great way to show it!”
Amy said that she wants to spend these last couple of months leading up to graduation making memories with friends and crossing things off of her UK bucket list… Next on the list is to go camping at Red River Gorge! Amy loves being outside in any capacity, so although she has gone hiking at the gorge many times, she’s never been camping there! She loves to ride her bike, recently started rock climbing and travels as much as possible- She has been to Israel, Denmark and Sweden this year alone! Her favorite memories as student at UK are the spring break trips she went on with CSF to Colorado and Israel! Out of all of the places she’s traveled to, she says her favorite destinations are Stockholm, Sweden and Israel so far!
Like many of us can relate to, her career path now is drastically different than that of the dance teacher or even the flight nurse she dreamed of becoming when she was a little girl!
After graduation, Amy plans to attend Optometry school, followed by completing a one year residency before entering into a practice partnership, though she says that she would love to eventually be in a position to where she can do medical non-profit work full-time!
It is likely that Amy will move out of the state for Optometry school, but that won’t keep this native Kentuckian from staying connected to the university!
“I look forward to representing the commonwealth as well as the University of Kentucky wherever I end up,” she said, “I plan on joining an alumni club and coming back to UK any chance I get. I will always be a fan!”
Jessica Waters, who grew up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, moved to Dayton, Ohio before middle school and has lived there ever since. Jessica is a senior at UK, pursuing a degree in Integrated Strategic Communication and a minor in psychology. This spring, she was accepted into the University Scholars program through the College of Communication and Information.
The University Scholars Program is a Graduate Program in the College of Communication and Information that offers particularly gifted and highly motivated students the opportunity and the challenge of integrating their undergraduate and graduate courses of study in a single continuous program culminating in both a baccalaureate and a master’s degree. As a result. Students in the program take courses for their master’s during both semesters of senior year, which allows these students to graduate with their master’s degree in communication in one additional year, post baccalaureate.
After graduation, Jessica hopes to pursue a career as a strategic communications director in the corporate sector. She said that she has an interest in pursuing a Ph. D. and teaching at the collegiate level at a later point in life, but looks forward to diving into the professional world after graduating with her master’s!
While at UK, Jessica has been very involved with her sorority, Delta Delta Delta, while also remaining involved on campus in other ways. She has served as an officer with Tri Delta since freshman year and serves as the Chapter President currently! Outside of Greek life, Jessica has been involved on campus as a member of the UK Ad Club and UK Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), an Alumni Ambassador and is currently an intern for the UK Alumni Association. She has also remained involved off-campus, as an ambassador for the Epilepsy Foundation, something she is extremely passionate about.
When she was 9, Jessica was diagnosed with Epilepsy, a seizure disorder, and has been passionate about raising awareness ever since. Soon after her diagnosis, Jessica started Cupcakes for Camp, a charity that raised money to send children with Epilepsy to a summer camp designed for children with seizures. She continued Cupcakes for Camp into her freshman year at UK, when she then decided to take a step back from the charity to focus on her studies and life as a college student.
“It was not an easy decision to step back from something I had worked so hard and so long for,” she said, “but in the end, I’m very happy I did because I was able to explore all that UK has to offer its students and feel that I have grown a lot from that.”
Even though she did not grow up in Kentucky, she is a Wildcat at heart! She immediately fell in love with the campus when she visited her senior year, so much so that she went straight home to fill out her application! She can be found at any UK sporting event and enjoys watching the games and cheering on her friends on the dance team. This passion for UK is what drove Jessica to apply to be an Alumni Ambassador so that she could share her UK story with current and prospective students and alumni.
“I am so proud to attend the University of Kentucky and I love to tell people that,” she said, “I truly feel like the university is dedicated to the success of its students, their well being and the accomplishment of their dreams. The university and alumni have supported me since before I stepped on campus as a student my freshman year, and that’s something unique to the University of Kentucky.”
Michael Regard, who was born in Schenectady, NY, moved to Lexington, KY at the age of two and has lived here ever since. Michael is a senior at UK, pursuing a degree in public health through the College of Public Health and a minor in political science. After graduation in May, he hopes to attend law school so that he can work in a corporate law firm and then eventually make his way into politics on the National level.
Michael has been involved on the University of Kentucky’s campus since he stepped foot here as a freshman, immediately getting involved with Student Government Association (SGA) and Greek Life as a member of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity. This drive to be involved did not die out, in fact, Michael later became a tour guide for the UK Visitors Center, volunteered as a tutor for the Carnegie Center and was awarded with a Gaines Fellowship during his junior year.
The John R. and Joan B. Gaines Fellowship in the Humanities is a one-of-a-kind undergraduate program designed to enrich the undergraduate experience in the humanities in a culture where science and technology are increasingly dominating. The fellowships are awarded in recognition of an outstanding academic performance, a demonstrated ability to conduct independent research, an interest in public issues, and a desire to enhance understanding of the human condition through the humanities.
In addition to applying to law schools during his senior year, Michael is serving as a UK Alumni Ambassador through the UK Alumni Association, will be dancing at DanceBlue and is working to complete his thesis project for the Gaines Fellowship Program.
“I have had no barriers in conducting research, pursuing fellowships, taking classes outside of my major, being able to find mentors from professors, faculty, and staff at the university,” Michael said, “that’s honestly extremely difficult at most universities and you just don’t see the investment that UK gives its students from other schools.”
As an Alumni Ambassador, Michael had the unique opportunity to share his UK story with esteemed alumni and friends of the university at the ‘Kentucky Can’ Campaign Launch event earlier this semester. In fact, this is Michael’s favorite memory from his time as an ambassador and he was proud to be part of the launch of such a historic campaign.
“Kentucky Can means to me that the students at UK, the university as a whole and all of the residents of the state, through the University of Kentucky can accomplish great things and do whatever they put their minds to,” said Michael, “In discussing opportunities for students with my friends at top institutions, such as: Georgetown, Tuffs and Cornell, I came to the realization that UK is an extremely unique place where they really focus on creating opportunities for students and investing in their students in ways that other universities don’t. Kentucky Can means to me that through this mentality of investing in students, a UK student can do whatever they put their minds to. They can do just the same as, if not more than any students at another Top 25 university.”
Michaela Taylor is a senior in the clinical leadership and management program within the College of Health Sciences at UK. Coming to UK from her hometown of Schamburg, IL, earned her the second longest commute home out of all of the ambassadors!
Michaela chose to attend the university after discovering the numerous shadowing and internship opportunities that the College of Health Sciences has to offer. As a student, she took full advantage of these opportunities and has worked as both and intern and an employee of UK Healthcare while serving as a member of the Health Administration Student Association. The experiences she has gained as a student in the College of Health Sciences has helped shape her aspirations and brought light to her desired career path.
“I hope to give back to the university by working here after graduation,” said Michaela, “I would love to be Legal Counsel for UK Healthcare Affairs and help to improve patients’ outcomes in the commonwealth.”
After graduation in May, she hopes to continue her education by obtaining a joint Master of Health Administration (MHA) and Juris Doctor (JD) degree.
While Michaela was extremely involved within her college, she was also present on UK’s campus as a member of Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority, a member of the Wildcat Marching Band and as an Alumni Ambassador.
Her favorite memory as a student at UK was traveling down to Jacksonville, FL for the TaxSlayer Bowl in 2016. Michaela had the honor of marching in the bowl game as a member of the Wildcat Marching Band and said that it was exciting to march in a stadium that big!
Michaela is passionate about the role that alumni play in the university because as an out-of-state student, attending UK would’ve been impossible for her without the generous scholarships she was offered from the university.
“It is because of the generous scholarship that UK offers that I can even be here and that’s what ‘Kentucky Can’ is all about,” she said, “I believe we can attract top talent and give them great opportunities, even if there are barriers for those people to get here. With those people, the University of Kentucky can thrive as a whole.”
Morgan Cornelius, a Pineville, KY native, is currently in her junior year at the University of Kentucky. She is pursuing a degree in family sciences on the Pre-Medicine track and plans on attending medical school immediately following graduation in 2020.
Morgan’s love for children and passion for helping others is what inspired her to come to UK as a Pre-Med student. As a little girl, she aspired to be a teacher but after experiencing a glimpse into the world of medicine, she quickly realized she wanted to be a doctor. She said that soon after realizing that she wanted to pursue medicine that it was natural for her to be drawn to pediatrics and has dreamed of becoming a pediatrician ever since!
When I asked Morgan what she hopes to accomplish during her junior year, it became clear that she has a huge heart for others and a determination that is unmatched!
“ I want to be as involved as possible on campus, keep my GPA up and begin applying to medical schools,” Morgan said, “ I also want to start planning for the mission trip I want to go on before graduation.”
Morgan is a Kentucky fanatic and doesn’t miss an opportunity to cheer on the Wildcats! When asked what her favorite memory is as a student at UK, she is torn between two great athletic meetings.
“The UK basketball game against Kansas in 2016 was my number one because of the energy and fan support in Rupp Arena that night,” she said, “but after being in the stands when UK football beat Mississippi State this year, I don’t think that can be topped.”
In addition to being a die-hard UK fan, Morgan has been involved on campus in a number of ways. She currently serves as the Public Relations Chair for the Pre-Med Activities Council (PMAC) and volunteers with Give Kids the World, in addition to serving as a UK Alumni Ambassador.
She knows how important alumni are to the university and cherishes the opportunity to serve as a bridge between current students, prospective students and UK Alumni. Her dad graduated from UK and she says she’s always dreamed of following in his footsteps by coming to UK too.
“The UK Alumni Association is like a family,” Morgan said, “building relationships with alumni is so important to this university and I am lucky to have the opportunity to do that.”
Lauren Hamlin, a Lexington, KY native, will graduate from the University of Kentucky in May 2019 with degrees in business management and psychology.
During her time at UK, Lauren has been involved with DanceBlue, is a member of the Women Business Leaders mentor program, is a small group leader for the Christian Student Fellowship and serves a UK Alumni Ambassador. Her favorite memory during her time at UK is the first time she participated in DanceBlue her freshman year. She said that she knew a little bit about DanceBlue from high school mini-marathons but that those didn’t compare to the full marathon.
“There is a magic to it that I can’t explain,” said Lauren, “it was an incredible experience coming from the high school minis to the full marathon my freshman year.”
Lauren has served on the DanceBlue Committee for two years, is currently serving as the Vice President of Public Relations and plans to return after graduation as an adviser for the organization. It is her hope to eventually pursue a career which supports children and or hematology and oncology research in some capacity.
Lauren’s favorite aspect of being an Alumni Ambassador is the ability to connect and share stories with so many different people while serving as a liaison between Alumni, current students and prospective students. She said that the ability to communicate with students and alumni about their experiences, visions and hopes for UK is very rewarding. Lauren plans to remain very involved with the Alumni Association and the university after graduation.
“I want to be a member of the alumni association and maintain relationships with students so that I can provide support for students,” said Lauren, “I hope that I can give back in the same ways that the university has given to me.”
In her spare time, Lauren can be found baking, reading a good book, or cheering on the Wildcats!
As a young girl, Alex Francke dreamed of being famous in the world of performing arts. While she is a talented performer and feels at home on stage, this Lexington native was destined for more.
During her time at UK, Alex has been involved in a number of organizations including: DanceBlue, Wrap up America, Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, Social Enterprise Honor Council and UK Alumni Ambassadors. As an Alumni Ambassador, Alex says she has enjoyed the opportunity to represent the student body to alumni and prospective students of the university. Her favorite memory as an Alumni Ambassador was participating in the ‘Kentucky Can’ Campaign Launch event by sharing her unique story with esteemed alumni and guests.
The $2.1 billion campaign – “Kentucky Can: The 21st Century Campaign” – is the largest fundraising campaign in the history of the Commonwealth. This campaign will create thousands of scholarships to expand access to education at the University of Kentucky and to dramatically accelerate UK’s efforts to solve the Commonwealth’s most challenging health and economic issues.
“Kentucky Can means more than many little things,” said Francke, “It is one large statement that demonstrates that we [Kentucky] can achieve above and beyond what we thought was capable.”
Alex, a Social Enterprise Scholar in the Gatton School of Business, is pursuing a degree in business management with a minor in international business. As a part of this program, Alex had the opportunity to study abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, an experience that she says was an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not only was this trip incredibly relevant to her degree and area of study, it also provided her with an understanding and appreciation for other cultures and ignited her passion for international work. After graduation, Alex aspires to run her own multi-national social enterprise firm that empowers underprivileged populations.
A fun fact about Alex is that she was in one of the original focus groups for Gushers when she was a little kid- she says she gave them a thumbs up!