Student’s passion for success has far-reaching influence


Kody Kahle

Erin Kirker (right) sits with friend Kelsey Patterson (left) in the outdoor amphitheater on campus. Kirker and Patterson have been friends since Freshman year and will graduate together on May 10.

If you’ve spent any time at NKU, chances are you have seen her.

Involved in student organizations spanning from Norse Leadership Society to Kappa Delta sorority, she has also worked across campus as a resident assistant, orientation leader, Norse Advising peer coach and even as a university mail manager– just to name a few.

She has also lived just about everywhere on campus you could imagine.

And if you can’t recognize her always smiling face, chances are you have at least heard her unique chuckle.

“The Erin (McCarty) Kirker laugh,” her friends call it.

However, you may not be able to see this organizational leadership major sitting at her normal lunch spot at the far side of the salad bar or hanging out on the third floor of the Student Union much longer.

In just a couple weeks, Kirker will be graduating, alongside countless lifelong friends, leaving the place she has grown to call home, only as a memory.


Getting started


“The day I fell in love with NKU, I moved into my freshman dorm and my roommates didn’t know me, I didn’t know them,” she said. “So I was getting acquainted with them. When I said goodbye, I was walking across campus and I saw my orientation leader. He remembered me and shouted ‘English Erin’ across the plaza. In that moment, I thought, ‘I will make myself memorable here’… That was the first day I felt a part of the NKU community.”

And from there, she got to work.kevin side bar

Walking into her first class of her freshman year of college, Kirker was nervous, anxious and scared.

But she didn’t let that stop her from paving her way to a successful college career.

“I didnt know anyone,” she said. “I knew I had to set myself high goals in college to make myself stay… I was nervous. But this girl was sitting close to me. She had a Vera Bradley agenda and an NKU cheer backpack…”

So Kirker made a move to get acquainted and make one of her first friends at NKU.

“I offered her a Lifesaver mint to break the ice and she took it,” Kirker said. “She’s been my best friend ever since…. Kelsey Patterson; my soulmate.”

Patterson, a public relations major who is also graduating in May, remembers that day just as clearly as Kirker.

“I came to college with no friends. I was by myself,” Patterson said. “We were in our theatre appreciation class together. She turned to me and offered me that mint… from there we’ve spent years together.”


A web of influence


Patterson said Kirker has helped connect her and countless others to campus.

“Her laugh will turn heads,” Patterson said. “Everyone will know exactly who it is.”

Due to Kirker’s strong influence, Patterson ended up nominating her for the “Lollipop Award” at this year’s NKU Gold and White Gratitude 2014: Student Leader Recognition Celebration– a new award given to a student who uses a small act of kindness to have an influential change on the lives of fellow students.

And when Kirker won the award, Patterson wasn’t surprised.

“I knew I wanted to be involved and do things on campus, but I didn’t know how,” Patterson said. “Erin has pushed me to pursue the things I really wanted to do.”

Kirker has held leadership positions in several organizations on campus. She has been on the leadership council for her sorority, a Victor Volunteer, a vice president in Norse Leadership Society, been given a University Service Award and been named Who’s Who Among American College Students for two years in a row.

“I think that I was one of those students who wouldn’t have made it at NKU if it weren’t for mentorship,” she said. “If it weren’t for the incredible people on this campus who surround you with that NKU love, like Jeff Iker, Dean Waple and Tiffany Mayse. Those people inspire me to be a better me.”

Mayse, NKU Director of Student Engagement, has worked with Kirker for years.

“What I love so much about her is she gets the big picture,” Mayse said. “Erin is a very special  woman who has given countless hours to make NKU a better place…”

People know Kirker not only for her laugh, but for her smile, involvement and self-proclaimed obsession with Disney.

On a rainy day she can be seen walking across campus with her Disney umbrella. Students stop to talk.

“No matter where I’m going on campus, I know I have to leave 15-20 minutes early for everywhere I go, because I know I will want to stop and talk to everyone I know and everyone I see. I never have intentions of being late, but I like to socialize.”


Taking that bittersweet next step


After graduation, Kirker hopes her experience in having a positive influence on those around her will continue on throughout her career.

“NKU has been my home for four years and quite frankly, I wish it was going to be my home for longer,” Kirker said.  “I feel like a piece of me will always be here.”

Erin Kirker at one of her favorite spots on campus. She will graduate this May after having a jam-packed four-year college experience.
Erin Kirker at one of her favorite spots on campus. She will graduate this May after having a jam-packed four-year college experience.

However, Kirker said it’s time for her to take that next step.

“I am hoping to work at Southern State Community College and then go to grad school,” she said. “My plans are to seek employment… I want to go to a program at Ohio University for student affairs.”

She wants to work at SSCC because it is closer to her home town of West Union, Ohio.

“My home town is very poverty stricken and to be quite frank, it needs a lot of people who have an education to go back and try to better the community,” she said. “And that’s something I would like to take a role in to try and make it a better place.”

Kirker said she has all her eggs in one basket with this goal.

“I’m wearing my lucky underwear and carrying my rabbit’s foot and saying my prayers…” she said.

Her dream job is in advising future students and to continue to have a positive impact on the people around her, like those who positively impacted her.

“I currently work as a peer coach, which essentially means I’m a student adviser. And I love my job. I love, love, love it.”

And her job isn’t the only thing she loves about NKU.

Kirker, formerly McCarty, got married during her time here at NKU, to her high school sweetheart and NKU alumnus, Dean Kirker.

“NKU is everything to me,” Kirker said. “NKU is passion. NKU is education. I know ultimately we are here for a diploma, but I feel like the college experience does so much more for students than just that. It helps you seek out who you are and who you want to be.”

As a last project at the university, Kirker is decorating her graduation cap with her self-proclaimed Disney obsession in mind.

“It has Buzz and Woody on it,” she said, thinking her NKU experience can take her anywhere she wants to go.

Perhaps even “to infinity and beyond…”