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By NKU Magazine Staff | Photography by Scott Beseler | Published June 26, 2019
Arah Samuels

HOMETOWN: Canton, Michigan
MAJOR: Music

Tell me about life pre-NKU. Where did you grow up?

I was born in northern Kentucky in Erlanger, Kentucky, and my family moved to Michigan when I was a baby. I grew up in a town called Canton, about 30 minutes outside of Detroit.

Why did you choose NKU? What kept you here?

It’s an interesting story. NKU was already in my top 5 college choices, so my family and I did a tour of all five colleges in the same week, with NKU’s being on that Thursday. During the first three tours, it was cold, rainy, and dreary outside; but at my tour for NKU, the sun was shining, and it was 70 degrees outside! The tour the next day had miserable weather, just like the tours before. I figured it was a sign from the universe to attend!

But on a more serious note, what drew and kept me at NKU were all the opportunities it offers. When I came to college, I did not expect to be afforded nearly as many chances at growing as a leader that I did. I was an Orientation Leader, a Resident Assistant in University Housing for a few years, a mentor in different disciplines, a student organization leader, and other notable positions. I have learned how to be professional and poised while having fun at the same time! NKU has given me the opportunity to represent much more than just myself, and the growth that comes with that is astounding.

Can you tell me a little about what you’re studying?

I study Music Education with a focus in Choral Studies and have ambitions of becoming a choir or general music teacher.

What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think about NKU?

The first word that comes to my mind is growth. Our campus has grown tremendously since my first year of enrollment. I remember on my college tour, they were finishing up the Recreation Center, and now we have a whole new building on top of that one. NKU is a place that grows with its people and the needs of them.

What is the best thing about NKU?

The best thing about NKU is definitely our new President! Dr. Ashish Vaidya came to our campus in July and has made many positive changes since then. He works at making sure that all students feel included, finds time to come and talk to students, and genuinely cares about those who attend NKU, both to learn and to teach.

What advice would you give a first-year student?

Stay organized. It helps you in the long run. Always pay in cash. Debit cards become gift cards real quick man, trust me. Get involved! Pick two organizations that pique your interest and involve yourself in them! Test the waters with different ones, but stick to two your first semester, to not overwhelm yourself. First semester? Stay in the books. Have fun your first semester, but do not forget that college is a learning experience as well! Setting yourself up well the first semester (specifically with your GPA) will benefit you for years to come.

What’s your favorite class? Why?

My favorite class has been University 101. University 101 is a class designed for freshman, allowing them to be exposed to different campus resources, as well as helping them determine what their major is. I became friends with many people in that class (some who I’m still friends with to this day!) and made wonderful connections, as well as being more secure in what my major is and knowing about different campus aids.

What has been your most challenging academic experience so far? Why?

My most challenging academic experience was during my junior year of college. I was involved in several organizations, including a musical produced outside of school, while also trying to manage my course load and work as both a Resident Assistant and a piano accompanist at my church; I was ridiculously overwhelmed! My stress levels skyrocketed, and I became ill by the end of the semester because of it. I finished finals week with a sniffly nose and a pounding head, learning that I will manage my time and work load much better for the following year!

What’s a favorite NKU memory you’ll never forget?

My favorite NKU memory dates to my junior recital. A recital is a solo performance that every music major must put on to display their growth in their primary instrument. I was so nervous going into my recital, but as I walked out on stage and was performing, everything came so naturally! I felt like a Rockstar. After it was over I took a deep breath and could not stop smiling!

What is your favorite way to decompress?

My favorite way to decompress is by doing my craft, just for fun. In my experience in college, there was a point in time where I began to hate music, even though it is a portion of my degree. I didn’t actually hate music; I had just lost the joy in my craft. Finding the joy in what I do again allowed me to take stress away from what I needed to do, because it allowed me to remember why I wanted to push and make myself a better musician.

Where’s your favorite spot on campus? What makes that spot so special?

I love the Amphitheatre beside the fine arts building. When the weather is nice, I love to go and sit and watch the sunset and enjoy the breeze. The sun sets right over Locke Norse; with the sound of the water flowing, just sitting and observing the sunset is like a breath of fresh air, and a great reset for however I am feeling.

Who’s your favorite professor (or staff member)? Why?

It’s hard for me to pick one, so I’m going to pick two instead. Dr. Jason Vest, my former vocal coach, and Mrs. Katie Barton, Director of Choral Studies, have been my favorite two professors on campus. Both individuals have taught me so much about my disciplines; from them I have learned how to be a better teacher, musician, and performer. I can also go to them with any grievance or concern of mine, and they welcome me with open arms and help me find solutions to my issues. I could not have asked for better teachers.

Where’s the best place to study?

The best place to study is wherever you don’t find yourself distracted. For me, studying doesn’t work well whenever I go back to my room because I get too comfortable and fall asleep while I have things to do. I find a quiet place in the library, most times out in front of Einstein’s bagels, and I listen to some relaxing music and study that way.

What is your favorite way to spend your free time?

I like to spend time with my friends in new ways. With Cincinnati so close to campus and the Florence area not too far away, there are plenty of ways to spend time in the area, some ways without spending any money! We take adventures, go out to dinner, and have a good time with each other.

How do you stay focused?

I stay focused by allowing myself to not focus; hear me out. Studies have showed that it is not the best idea to sit for several hours and try to study, or even cram all of the material the night before. When I sit to study or do work, I work in intervals, allowing myself 30 minutes of rest between 30 minutes of studying or work. Good music also helps keep me focused!

What is your greatest passion?

My greatest passion is teaching. I love having the opportunity to learn and then educate others on what all I’ve become an expert in.

What are you most looking forward to after graduation?

I’m looking forward to life and whatever it holds for me. I’m excited for the day in which I have my own classroom, but one thing I want to do before I teach is received a graduate degree. I want to advance my knowledge to its capacity to know not only my field, but how to answer any question, engage every student, and appreciate the experience while I do it!

What kind of job would you like to have after you graduate?

As I said before, I’m excited for the day I get to teach in my own classroom and hopefully get a teaching position after I achieve my degrees, but I do not see myself stopping at the classroom. A goal of mine is to eventually become a school principal; it is important for all students, especially students of color, to look up to a person that they can relate to and see themselves in. A goal of mine is to be a positive representative force to all students, and that they can lead their lives knowing that they can do anything they put their minds to.

What does getting your degree mean to you?

It is my own stamp of approval. It will be one of my greatest solo achievements, because I did all the work to be where I am! It is hope for my future. It is hope for my children’s’ futures. It is faith in God and me. It’s my gift to myself.

What are a few things every NKU student should do here before he or she graduates?

Every NKU student should go to events outside of their comfort zone. NKU has a lot of organizations on campus of various cultures, and each put on their events to highlight that in which they come. Learning happens both in and outside of the classroom, and one way to easily learn and expand your own personal growth is by doing things outside of your norm. Support each other!

Tell me anything else about yourself and/or NKU that you want folks to know.

I love this university. When I selected a college, NKU was the only one that I applied to and found everything I was asking for in. This college has given me the opportunity to represent myself and others in so many ways; I am a role model to young, black women and wear that badge with honor and pride. The opportunities that I have earned have done nothing but grow me as a person and a professional. This college has a fit for any student, you just have to look for it!