From 19 to 79, IUPUI grads look ahead to the future

More than 7,000 students will graduate May 14 from IUPUI, ranging in age from 19 to 79. Among the graduates, there are eight sets of twins. Twenty-eight percent are first-generation college students. Twenty-three percent are over 30, and 28 percent are under 23.

IUPUI Today spoke with some of the oldest and youngest class of 2022 graduates to learn their stories and hear their advice to others.

Kylin Kempson

"Your life starts the moment you're brave enough to be honest with yourself."

That's the advice of one of IUPUI's youngest 2022 graduates, Kylin Kempson.

"Get to know yourself: what you want, what you hope for," she said. "If your life doesn't reflect what you actually care about, or at least want to care about, then take inventory and see what needs to change. This is the first day of the rest of your life! Start being what you want to eventually become. And be willing to let others do that, too."

Kempson, of Carmel, was homeschooled for much of her life, and she finished high school early. She started taking courses at IUPUI at age 16, and she finished in December 2021 at age 18. Now 19, she will walk across the commencement stage to officially mark the completion of her undergraduate degree in global and international studies from the School of Liberal Arts.

"I'm so grateful for my time at IUPUI. There were so many professors who had an impact on me. The greatest impact these professors had on me came from little pockets of time when I got to glimpse who they were and what they had spent their lives on. The power behind their teaching came from having lived what they were teaching. Their stories, their persons and their lives are what I remember most, and what I learned the most from."

Kempson said she hopes to pursue a graduate degree in the near future, preferably overseas. She spent last summer studying abroad in Egypt, and she would like to further study diplomacy or international relations. In the meantime, she was accepted in August 2021 to a training program focusing on another passion of hers: dance. She'll finish the program this month after nine months of dancing and interning with a professional dance company in Dallas.

"For future and current students, I'd say this," Kempson said. "Make sure you are living in a way that reflects your priorities, what actually matters to you. Don't let yourself get to the end of a few really cool years in college and realize you didn't live life, didn't look for what's actually true, didn't enjoy the moment, didn't pour into that relationship or passion or let yourself make that mistake. This is your moment now; make sure you take that chance."

Diana Krepela

Almost 40 years after she started her degree, 69-year-old Diana Krepela will finish in May. Not only that, but her granddaughter Emma will finish her degree from IUPUI, as well.

"I'm so proud of her," Krepela said. "My daughter received her degree several years ago, and now my granddaughter will, and myself. I hope I inspired both of them. This is something I set out to do as a young person, and I didn't accomplish it -- and I didn't like that. To be here now, I feel so accomplished and proud."

Krepela said she started working on her degree in the 1980s, after she finished serving in the U.S. Army.

"I specifically got into the Army to get the GI benefits to go to school, because it wasn't a possibility otherwise, monetarily, for me," she said. "Then, life happened, we had children, and in 2014, when I retired from my work at the IRS, I decided now's the time."

In 2014, she started taking classes part-time once again. This week, she will officially complete her degree from IUPUI in general studies.

"You can imagine over 40 years, as I got older, what I wanted to do changed," Krepela said. "I started out as an elementary education major years ago. I will finish with minors in English, communications, history and music. I've accumulated quite a few credits, and my counselor made sure I got credit for everything!"

She's not done yet. Krepela said she's ready to pursue her next degree -- a master's in creative writing -- starting in August. That goal was inspired by an influential professor.

"He has since passed away," she said. "But he was the first person to really tell me he enjoyed my writing. He encouraged me. So now I have a couple of books I'd love to write, all because he encouraged me."

To those thinking about going back to school or starting later in life, Krepela said she recommends it.

"Don't give up, and don't look back and say it's too late," she said. "It's never too late."

Nancy Kinnaird

Nancy Kinnaird "retired" in 2008. But she hasn't slowed down a blink since.

"I think when you're retired, you're always looking for interesting things to do," she said. "Education has tremendous value. I love learning new things."

So much so that Kinnaird has gone back for further education several times throughout her life.

After losing her husband when she was in her 40s, Kinnaird pursued her undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science through IUPUI. She worked as a software engineer until the 2008 recession forced her to take an early retirement.

She said it was then that she started to volunteer with the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, helping people with their taxes free of charge.

"I really enjoyed doing taxes, especially at the time, when things were hard for people; I felt it was helping a lot," Kinnaird said. "So, I decided to become better credentialed as an accountant. I've worked there now for 11 years.

"I think everyone should have a good education when it comes to finances, money, economics and law, so that's why I went back to school."

Kinnaird, who lives in Carmel, pursued her Master of Science in accounting from the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI. She attended part time over seven years, and she finished her courses in December at age 79.

"I was amazed when I finished; I thought, 'Oh my goodness,'" she said. "I think IUPUI is a wonderful place to go to school, especially for seniors. Everyone was very friendly. It's a wonderful opportunity for people who live in central Indiana."

Her favorite courses in the accounting master's program were the auditing courses.

"I thought it was fascinating. I thought we should be auditing more things. Accounting is the science of being accountable."

Now Kinnaird is applying for jobs in the accounting field. Ideally, she'd like to find work in something that uses both her computer science and accounting knowledge. Until she finds the perfect match, she's volunteering with the Tax-Aide program and in a kitchen that prepares food for seniors. She'd also like to pass the CPA exam.

For those who may be considering going back to school, at any age, she said it's worth it.

"My advice is to be sure you have the fundamental technical skills before you go," Kinnaird said. "And also, be sure the subject you study is something you love. I've enjoyed all of my education thus far, and I wouldn't change a thing."