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August 5, 2013

My passion for Purdue: Carol Kurmis

Carol Kurmis

Carol Kurmis, director of enrollment management and program support at Purdue North Central. (Photo provided)
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Carol Kurmis, once a nontraditional student and now an administrator at Purdue North Central, is making her own tradition of building bridges every day with today's students -- through her work and her giving.

"I give back because every day I see how students struggle to find the right fit and to find the money to continue on with their educational careers," says Kurmis (BA '02, MS '07), director of enrollment management and program support. "After graduating from high school, I never went to college; I went to work instead. College was never, ever available to me. It was not accessible in any form."

At least that's what she thought. Later in life, she watched with great pride as her husband progressed through his academic career. "It was when he graduated and I watched him walk across the stage to receive his diploma that my curiosity was piqued," she says.

Kurmis had always been a proponent of higher education, but didn't know quite where to start. But not too far from her Valparaiso home was Purdue North Central. She applied. "To this day I still remember reading my letter of acceptance. I was walking up the stairs to my job and had to stop. I was so overcome with excitement," Kurmis says.

She started with one class, then, at the age of 43, with nothing but moxie in her backpack left her full-time job and became a full-time student. Kurmis got involved with as many activities as she could, including serving as student government president. This experience not only gave her a clear picture of what other students go through but also galvanized her dedication to the student population.

Kurmis' diplomas now hang on the wall in her office and serve as a testament to all who doubt they can do it. Teaching a PNC course on first-year experience, she stays very involved with students and their families.

"For years, I gave everything I had -- everything but money, that is, which I never thought I could afford to do." But as she began talking to the fundraisers at PNC, Kurmis saw how gifts of all sizes make a big impact.

Drawing from her student experiences and remembering the struggles student government representatives went through trying to raise money to continue offering scholarships, she started small, giving through payroll deduction to student government specifically for scholarships.

"It just feels so good to give back," she says. "If it weren't for Purdue and the education I received, I wouldn't be telling this story. I give because I want others in the future to be able to say the same thing."

* Faculty and staff who would like to share their own thoughts and stories about supporting Purdue should contact stewardship@purdue.edu or 49-43872.

Writer: Karen Pulliam, 49-43872, kp@purdue.edu