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To “prove them wrong” Transylvania sophomore needed support of tight-knit community

A Transylvania University student on the campus where she found a tight-knit community

Falling in love with Transy’s close-knit campus means different things to different people. 

Standifur on a wildlife sanctuary in New South Wales, where she holds Billy the Bilby, a marsupial on the verge of extinction in Australia

For Courtney Standifur ’23, who had never lived outside of Pikeville, Kentucky, finding a campus where she could feel at home and supported meant the difference between following her dream of becoming a veterinarian and never knowing what might have been.  

Standifur knows how easily she could have succumbed to the fears expressed by some of her high school teachers. As she contemplated going to college in a city that was at once daunting and filled with opportunities, they warned her not to venture beyond her hometown. They worried she would not be welcomed as a woman from Eastern Kentucky and would face bullying and debilitating stereotyping. Better to stay home, they told her. 

But their warnings served only to strengthen her resolve. “The point of them wanting to protect me drove me and pushed me harder to prove everyone wrong,” she explains.

She remembers stepping onto Transy’s campus and feeling welcomed — an important first step. “I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere and the people. It felt like home,” she says. “I knew that this transition would be a lot easier for me than attending a larger university.” The next step involved dismantling her own set of negative presumptions.  

“When I came here, I expected everyone to have a completely different demeanor — like I was in a different country almost,” she says, illustrating how imbedded stereotyping can become and how it works from every direction. She steeled herself against having her Eastern Kentucky roots “thrown back in her face.” But instead, she says, “I had a whole system of staff and classmates who didn’t even know me support and push me.”

The relationships she developed became the heart of her progress. 

“I know my classmates super well,” she says. “I have relationships with my professors that I never thought I would have. I’m not just a number to my professors — I’m a person, a personality,” she reflects. “I know what my professors like to do in their free time; they know what I like to do in my free time. Just building that connection and feeling like you’re important — especially in times like this, in a pandemic, has allowed me to work a lot harder and be more connected with Transy than I ever thought I would be.”

Now a sophomore biology major on the pre-veterinary medicine track, Standifur also works part time as a veterinary technician, gaining real-world experience. She remained on campus after Thanksgiving break in order to continue the job she started early in her first year when she was introduced to a local veterinarian.

“Transy has amazing connections,” she says, “and I’m so glad I got to use one of them.”

Kind, quiet-spoken and fearless, Standifur is a woman whose fortitude and determination leave no doubt about her future. She’s thriving. And she’s someone you would want to care for your most precious furry friend. 

“I have wanted to be a veterinarian since I was four or five,” she says, pointing to her ultimate motivation to work so hard to meet the demands of her job and her rigorous academic path. “Even though it is a lot,” she explains, “when it’s something I love this much, it suddenly becomes easier. It doesn’t feel like I’m forcing myself to try and learn. It’s something that I want to gain knowledge in, something I want to feed off of in order to be great at doing the things I want to do in life.”

In her future, Standifur knows that she will return to Pikeville for a time to continue working and learning from the veterinarian who gave her a start when she was 16 years old. But she now has aspirations of working abroad, perhaps in the Peace Corps, and is exploring Transy’s special prep program.

As she continues to make the most of these opportunities, Standifur acknowledges the connection she feels with the Transy community, even when much of it is virtual during COVID-19. “Just knowing that you still can have a connection with people — even in a pandemic — helps me push and work toward my dream no matter what,” she says. And she is quick to recognize, with enormous gratitude, all of the alumni who stay in touch with their alma mater and support her education. 

“I would not have been able to attend Transylvania and live on campus without the help of alumni donors. They have allowed me to experience how amazing it truly is.” 

Your year-end donation makes so many inspiring futures possible. Please give before Dec. 31 at transy.edu/giving.