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Kimberly Castle Headshot

Student-centered learning is a focus of Sullivan University, and what this means is that the university puts great effort into ensuring every student has access to educators and resources to help them succeed.

For former student Kim Castle, the road to success could not have been taken without the support of the people at Sullivan University.

Kim’s journey started when her husband died of cancer in 2005. With two kids at home and two in college, her current job wasn’t enough to support her family’s future.

“We just had this tragedy, and I knew I couldn’t support us,” she says.

Her family and friends were concerned about her going back to school. She was widowed and in her 40s with four kids, and she also had three stepsons she loved. Given the size of Kim’s family and the weight of her responsibilities, many close to Kim wondered if going back to school was out of reach. But that’s exactly what she did.

Sullivan recruiter offers hope

One afternoon, Kim walked into the office of Marika Adams, recruiter for Sullivan’s Lexington campus. She arrived with her kids in tow, unsure if she was going to be able to juggle this new life. They sat down together, and Marika assured Kim that she could go to classes, get her degree, take care of her kids and not have to quit her current job. She could do this without jeopardizing her family, or her own dreams. Hearing these words, Kim was overwhelmed with hope.

“I remember I was in [Marika’s] office with two kids in a stroller and crying because I was going back to college.”

Other doors opened, as well

One night, as Kim was studying, she received a call from her daughter, who worked at O’Neill’s in Lexington and needed to borrow money. Kim had an exam that night, but promised she would bring some cash by the restaurant when the exam was over. When she arrived, she found her daughter had been let off early.

With extra time on her hands, she decided she to stay for a while and listen to the live band. Some guy at the bar turned to her and said “Rough day?” Kim was hesitant: “Oh great, I’m being hit on at a bar … this is so not me,” she laughs. But, on the following Monday, the same man went to work and asked a mutual friend about Kim. “She’s a really nice lady who was widowed with a lot of kids,” the friend had told him. Kim laughs as she retells this story, and in her voice you can hear her still giddy as she talks about her now husband. “Funny how life plays out.”

A chain reaction of empowerment and kindness

While there was a lot of hard work and long hours put in to work toward her goals, Kim humbly points to the people at Sullivan University who kept her going — people who went the extra mile for her when she needed help. Dr. Ken Miller was one of the first and last professors she had during her ongoing education at Sullivan.

“I was struggling in a quantitative statistics class, and we met at Starbucks and he tutored me. Where else in the world does somebody care that much?”

Kim continuously points back to the people who were there for her while she was a student. “Just marvelous people, that changed my life. I hope to pay it forward and to change someone else’s life.”

A chain reaction of empowerment and kindness was started, and Kim intends to keep it going.

How does Kim sum up her journey? Basically, she says that life can be funny. Kim had no idea what was around the corner when she lost her late husband, or when she walked into Marika’s office for the first time, or when she thought she was simply bringing her daughter spare cash, but instead met her current husband.

A wonderful life unfolds

After obtaining two master’s degrees from Sullivan University, one an Executive Master of Business Administration and the other a Masters of Science in Conflict Management, Kim decided to take her education one step further.

“When [Sullivan] started their Ph.D. program, they called me and asked if I’d be interested.” Kim had already looked into and applied for a Ph.D. program, so the call was timely, “When they called, they had been so good to me it seemed natural I should get my Ph.D. there, too.”

Today, Dr. Kim Castle is an adjunct professor for graduate and undergraduate students at Sullivan University, where she is able to give students the same opportunity she was once given. She owns her own business, the Appalachian Peace Center, where Kim is able to practice mediation — a certification she received through Sullivan. In addition to teaching and being a business owner, Kim has written a book on bullying that will soon be published.

“If someone would have told me years ago that I was going to be a mediator and teach about domestic violence I would have said, ‘No, that is not me.’ But sometimes God has a plan.”

When Kim walked into Marika’s office that one afternoon 12 years ago, no one could have foreseen the wonderful life that was about to unfold before her, not even Kim. What’s clear to Kim now is that the first step toward that life began on the campus of Sullivan University.

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