I am proud to officially be a Kansas State Wildcat. This past weekend, I walked across the stage in Bramlage Coliseum to receive my master’s degree and an official place in the K-State family. 

When I moved to Kansas more than a decade ago, I felt pretty confident in my assumptions of what life would be like. Life in the Midwest meant a little slower pace, friendlier people, simpler lifestyles and more of the values of my childhood.

One thing I wasn’t prepared for (other than the wind) was the K-State family. Other universities have fans but in Kansas, it isn’t just a team you cheer for. K-State is the heartbeat of the agriculture community, a respected source of information and innovation, a family of fans committed to showing up and supporting the team and each other even when it isn’t convenient, a legacy and source of pride passed down through generations in families all across the state.

At graduation, a representative of the alumni association spoke briefly about what it means to become an alumna. The part that caught my attention was that the association considers purple a core value. This was new to me intellectually, but I instantly understood it in my heart.

Purple is friendliness and comradery. Walking through the purple sea of tailgates in the stadium parking lot before a football game, you will see old friends and make new ones. All over the world, the K-state family is recognizable by a shirt or hat and we never miss a chance to say hello. This has literally happened to me on every international trip since I moved to Kansas. Purple is the outward symbol of the pride we all have for this amazing network of people and the better way of life that comes from being a part of the family.

Since I didn’t grow up here, I didn’t have this understanding and appreciation from the start. Years ago when I began my master’s program, I considered both Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Both programs seemed equally respected, had similar courses and tuition and were about the same distance from my home. The distance really didn’t matter since all my classes would be online, but I liked the idea of having the option to interact with the school in person.

My eventual decision to attend K-State ended up coming down to an unexpected argument about value. Marc and his college friends have had season tickets since graduating because that is what K-Staters do. A seat was added to the pack for me shortly after I moved here. As season ticket holders, we support the school and students through the Ahearn Fund contribution. I remember thinking if we are going to give money to a school for the rest of our lives, I might as well get some benefit from it.

In the years since starting the master’s program, my appreciation has grown and purple has bled into my life and view of the world. I have gained knowledge through classes and extension programing. I have made friends and industry connections expanding my experiences and challenging my understanding of the world. My ownership and pride in the institution has grown with all of the benefits not only to myself but to the communities that I care about.

Now that I am officially a wildcat, Kansas feels even more like a home and I am confident in my place in this purple family that I will be thankful for the rest of my life.