Kelly Casper

My name is Kelly Casper and I’m graduating from KU with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and in December a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Language Hearing Sciences.

Thinking through my time at KU, I can’t help but smile. This smile isn’t because college was an easy enjoyable ride- in fact it was quite the contrary. I smile today in consideration of the strength it took for all of us to persevere through some of life’s greatest challenges, and also in laughter at my own naive foolishness at times. College was an exciting endeavor from the start, one for me that didn’t always go as planned. For those who know me personally, you know I am a meticulous planner. I write down everything, everywhere and far in advance. Naturally, I was the girl who had the next decade of her life mapped out by age 12. So when it came time to graduate high school and start college, I was ready.

But little did I know what I was preparing for.  As a high school graduate, I was moving to Kansas to pursue a degree in Exercise Science and Physical Therapy. Standing in front of you today, it’s obvious that neither of these things panned out. Instead, I came to KU on a dance scholarship and signed on to a strenuous journey.  Dance at a collegiate level was a whole new ball game. It wasn’t a show of talent anymore, but rather a process of training, creativity, trial and error, and lots of work and development to dance in ways that impacted audiences; dance became an art, an expression of passion, and a method of communication. The Dance Department at KU houses the most incredible mentors, both faculty and students, who share passions and vision and push you to grow beyond them. The people who spend their days and nights in Robinson live to inspire others and they inspired me. I knew coming into college that I had been blessed with more than one passion in life, and those people pushed me to continue seeking that out, while continuing to grow in my love and appreciation for dance.

I sought out the Physical Therapy tract as planned and quickly discovered that I was not actually interested in the life of a physical therapist, so I went back to the drawing board. However, this time there were no definite plans or ideas coming to mind - where there once had been a confident omnipotent decision maker stood a panicking and confused 20 year old half way through her college career.

Now I realize most people in this room are not two years into college, 20 years old and grappling with the idea of changing majors; however there is something in common with that person and all of us- we have no idea what to do next. Our plans have brought us to graduating from college today, hoorah!!! But what now?

In my rather traumatizing search down an unknown path, it was thanks to my mentors that I happened upon my place in an Audiology tract. Using the people you know and trust will bring you far in life. Once I calmed down and took a step back I realized how much that experience taught me. The fear of not knowing what I would be doing with my life forced me out of my box and caused me to explore new areas of the world, and I’m better now because of it. I stayed loyal to my passion in dance and my interest in therapy and it brought me to an entirely new landscape of life. When people are cast away from their path, they are forced to reanalyze their goals, values, and dreams for the future. People will try new things, explore what works and suddenly one day everything clicks. It is this limbo in which people grow and discover and often the times when the most exciting parts of life take place! So to my fellow fearful and confused graduates, I challenge you to embrace the unknown. Go out and be curious, adventurous, and loyal to your love for creation. In the arts, it’s impossible to know your path – put yourself out there, stay true to your passion, and it will all fall into place in a way that’s better than you ever could have imagined. Congratulations Class of 2015! Rock Chalk!