Kool Strikes Right Balance, Succeeds at ATU

Alyssa Kool grew up in the buzzing metropolis of the Dallas-Fort Worth region in north Texas.

Her experiences among the relatively pastoral scenes provided by the Arkansas Tech University campus in Russellville have convinced her that she wants to settle in a place with more cattle that people.

“I think it’s really the challenge,” said Kool when asked about her acquired affection for those of the bovine persuasion. “There are some cows that just love to be with people, and there are some that absolutely hate people. Working with both is a daily challenge. During my time at Tech I’ve already fixed a uterine prolapse, performed liver biopsies and palpated cows. Those are experiences I never thought I’d have until vet school, so getting that here was incredible. The middle of nowhere, me and my cows…that’s what I want.”

Her academic performance, athletic prowess as a member of Arkansas Tech’s championship volleyball program and service to others are just a few of the reasons why Kool will be honored as the 2018 Margaret Young Award winner during ATU spring commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 12.

The annual award is presented to the most outstanding senior female student at ATU.

“I didn’t really think there was any way that out of all the students who will be graduating this year that I would be honored with this award,” said Kool. “It really, for me, just shows that I did make an impact on and leave a legacy at this university. I can’t wait to come back and show my kids the plaque. I know exactly where it is.”

Such ideas were far away when Kool first stepped on the ATU campus as a 16-year old. She traveled to Russellville to learn more about the agriculture program and the volleyball program. The connection was instant.

“I think it’s hard not to fall in love with this university,” said Kool. “The people are just so welcoming, and it’s a great size. It’s not too big, and not too small…perfect for me.”

Two people, Kristy Bayer and Dr. Alvin Williams, were primarily responsible for recruiting Kool to Tech out of Plano, Texas. Bayer served as head volleyball coach at ATU from 2004-17, while Williams is an associate professor of agriculture at Tech.

“Kristy Bayer was an incredible coach” said Kool. “Very driven. She was a proven success, which is something that I always wanted to come to. Doc Williams…I got to meet with him my first day on campus. He sat down with me and my family for hours, and we stayed in contact over the next year to be sure that everything lined up for me to get into vet school at Texas A&M University from Tech. The fact that somebody who didn’t know me would take the time to get to know me and my family and want success for my future was incredible.”

Kool’s volleyball career included a four-year record of 111-26, three regular season Great American Conference championships, two GAC Tournament titles and two NCAA Division II Tournament appearances. She was named to the GAC All-Academic team in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“Getting to know my coaches really well and my teammates really well was imperative for my success,” said Kool, reflecting back to the start of her freshman year. “I had people to go to football games with, and I had people to take me to the Involvement Fair and show me around. Three days before classes started, an upperclassman showed me where all my classes would be. I’d never been to campus before other than my visits. Having that family was really important to me.”

Her support network helped Kool maintain a 3.914 grade point average while successfully pursuing degrees in agriculture business (pre-veterinary option) and biology.

“That first semester wasn’t too bad, and then you get Organic Chemistry II and you study 50 hours for one test,” said Kool. “Being on a student-athlete’s schedule, you learn to study on the bus and not just take naps. We’re really student-athletes here. I think that’s something that gets lost on the (NCAA Division I) level. Being at the (NCAA Division II) level, it’s definitely encouraged to be a student first.”

Student-athletes at ATU are also encouraged to perform volunteer service for others, as demonstrated by the fact that Tech ranked among the top two NCAA Division II members in community service hours by its athletes the last two years. Kool was at the forefront of that effort, including service to Student Government Association (SGA) and the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) at ATU.

“Through SGA and SAAC, I’ve been able to grow in my leadership style,” said Kool. “Being an athlete, I’ve always been a very loud person. I’ve learned how to be more of a leader by example. This semester with SAAC, I started a program where we went to elementary schools and worked with the kids one hour every week. I went two hours because I love them so much. To be able to lead by example and show how I am having a good time with it is incredible. I’ve been able to step into a different role than I was used to when I came in as a freshman.”

Kool has attained her goal of being admitted to veterinary school at Texas A&M University. She will begin her studies in College Station this fall.

“My driving factor was not only my desire to be a veterinarian, but to prove people wrong who thought I couldn’t do it,” said Kool. “I’ve had great mentors in veterinary medicine with Dr. Williams and people at home that I worked for. I’ve had great experiences in the field, whether it was small animal, large animal or specialty practice. I’m going to go in knowing how to do things that my peers haven’t even heard of, much less had a chance to perform. The Tech Farm and the agriculture faculty have been really instrumental in my growth as a future veterinarian.”

As she adds more maroon to her wardrobe, becomes an Aggie and learns to love Reveille (Miss Rev if you prefer), there’s no danger of Kool forgetting about the green and gold years as a Golden Sun with Jerry the Bulldog that allowed her to get there.

“I’m most excited to be halfway done with my college career,” said Kool. “I’ll be 26 by the time I graduate as a doctor of veterinary medicine, so it’s exciting to be through the first four years. The scariest part is leaving everyone here. I’ve thought about it a lot lately. I’m going to leave all my friends I’ve made in the last four years and all the relationships I’ve built with professors. That’s really hard for me to get over. I’ve spent every day for the past four years here, and this has become my family. Leaving my family here will be the hardest part.”

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