KOKOMO, Ind. — It would have been easy for Andrea Saylor to choose a college close to home.
Growing up in Terre Haute, she had plenty of options. But an opportunity to play tennis at Indiana University Kokomo gave her the push she needed to branch out.
“It was my desire to play tennis, to find my own path, and to figure out who I am away from everything that made me who I was to that point is what led me here,” said Saylor, who graduates in May, and will be the class speaker during commencement.
“I’m glad I made that jump,” she said. “The first visit, I took a walk around campus with Coach [Kristine] Miller, and I remember thinking, ‘why not?’”
The relationships she built on the team, and with Miller, enhanced her experience as she earned her degree. One of her post-graduation goals is to follow in Miller’s footsteps and become a real estate agent.
“Tennis has been a huge part of my experience here,” Saylor said. “Coach Miller has poured into me in many, many ways. She has an entrepreneurial spirit and has done all kinds of things. Having her around has given me all kinds of different experiences, and the belief I can do whatever I want to do, and that I can ask for help when I need it.”
Miller said Saylor has been “a foundational member” of the tennis team.
“Andrea’s grit, determination, mental toughness, and skill has helped the IUK tennis team reach new heights,” she said. “The development between her freshman year and senior year has been exponential. She is such an intelligent young woman, but what truly sets her apart is her passion, heart, and work ethic. I ultimately see her as an asset to any organization she is involved in, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
In the classroom, Saylor found her niche in the Department of Communication and Performing Arts. She started in another major, but realized quickly it didn’t pique her interest.
“I hadn’t known about communication before, but it seemed like it would offer the opportunities I had looked for with my previous program, but with more of my crowd,” she said. “I feel like communication really helped me develop who I was and gave me the confidence to claim it.
“With this course work, you really have to self-reflect at times. That’s been difficult, but I think I’m better for it.”
Saylor is proud to have been one of the top two presenters at the IU Kokomo Undergraduate Research Conference during the spring semester, with an ethnographic perspective piece she researched and wrote, delving into how her mother’s culture shaped her life. Her mother grew up in Mexico and moved to the United States when she married Saylor’s father, who was an American.
The project will also have personal benefit, she said.
“If you don’t know history, you’re doomed to repeat it,” she said. “I believe the experiences the women who came before you in your family have can make a huge impact on the choices you make, the partner you choose, all kinds of things. Having that knowledge equips me better to understand the weight a relationship can carry, and the consequences of choices and starting a family. I can be sure I’m completely prepared for those things and understand the risks that come with jumping into life.”
Saylor is excited to graduate, and still considering her plans once she’s finished her degree.
“I have a lot of ideas, but it’s hard to know what’s right. That’s my biggest stressor right now,” she said. “I’d like to consider returning for a master’s degree and being a graduate assistant. That experience would be cool, and the opportunity to teach would be really enriching.”