I began my educational journey at Eastern nearly a decade ago — basically on a whim — and it has turned out to be one of my best life decisions because it connected me to a wonderful student newspaper called The Eastern Progress, the one you’re reading right now.
I had been laid off from my job doing temporary staffing work for Amazon in February 2012. Surprisingly, I took losing my job fairly well, becoming enamored at the chance to grow and shake the personal narrative of being a forever college student who never found his way.
Graduation still seemed so far off, but encouraging words from my boss [at Amazon] told me I had the skills to do whatever I wanted to do. As she explained the process of being laid off, my desire to earn a degree was rekindled. It also made me think about different pathways forward.
I had been at the University of Kentucky on and off since 2003 and knew the big blue machine really couldn’t take me back, because I had caused so much damage to my academic record. So many of my friends and acquaintances at UK – many who had been brought in to boost diversity numbers and help it mirror its benchmark institutions – had fallen by the wayside because of inadequate support services and resources. Quite a few had made the transition to Eastern. The consensus from those folks was that Eastern was a much better fit because of its smaller campus and more interconnected services within its disciplines.
Maybe it was a good fit for me, too?
I started the registration process within hours of being laid off, subsequently enrolling in the summer of 2012 as a journalism student. The aforementioned academic woes at UK prevented me from majoring in journalism, even though I had been a star at the Kentucky Kernel. Transferring to Eastern gave me the chance to finally pair the learning lab experience I had received through internships, freelancing and as a student journalist with academic knowledge. It was time to dig in and prove I could get the grades to prove I was worthy.
Get in, get a degree, and get out was my plan.
My plan had a minor hiccup right away when one of the 2012 fall semester requirements was to read over stories as a copy editor for a set number of hours. I remember thinking, “I’ll do it, but I won’t get so seriously involved.” The school paper had come first at UK and that priority structure destroyed my grades. I didn’t want to fall back into bad habits.
I quickly fell back into old habits. After one week of copy editing, I saw a tremendous need for what I brought to the table. There weren’t any dedicated copy editors and the stop-gap solution of having communications students fill in wasn’t enough to really bring out the best in the writing. I saw the possibilities and gave more time. I started writing more stories, getting more involved in the editing process, taking pictures, eventually becoming the assistant news editor. I finished up my final year with The Progress as the editor-in-chief. This time getting involved didn’t cause any issues. In fact, they were better than ever.
If you know me, you know I loathe clichés, platitudes, and all the sappy syrupy stuff that are a part of most people’s lives. That said, The Progress delivered all of the things people say they want in a college experience. I genuinely made lifelong friends, learned important lessons and rediscovered who I was through The Progress.
Eastern will always be a special place for me and it is central to guiding me down the right path.
Wesley Robinson is a 2014 graduate of Eastern Kentucky University. While at EKU, he was the editor-in-chief of The Eastern Progress for the 2013-2014 academic year. He worked as a breaking news reporter for PennLive/The Patriot-News. He currently works as the press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
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