Kaitlyn Beans knew she would enroll at the University of South Alabama the day she set foot on campus.
“It instantly felt like home,” said Beans, who grew up in Montgomery. “I felt, ‘This is where I belong.’ I knew I was going to be able to be a part of this school.”
Beans, who ran track in high school, had considered other schools before South. Then, a week before her high school graduation, track coach Paul Brueske shot her a Facebook message. “Come by and check us out,” Beans recalled Brueske’s note. By the end of her visit, Beans had an offer for a scholarship, and she accepted.
Beans said the people she talked to on the visit stressed academics with the end result of graduation and a career, not just as a means of keeping her eligible. She also got the sense that South was a dynamic and growing university, with a residence hall under construction and new buildings popping up across campus. The University was celebrating its 50th anniversary at the time, and Beans said she liked that South was old enough to have an identity, yet young enough that she could influence its direction.
She immediately got involved. Since arriving, Beans has participated in the First Year Council, Student Government Association, Jaguar Productions, Abeneefoo Kuo Honor Society, Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society, Student Athletic Advisory Council and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
She helped publish a freshman survival guide as a member of the First Year Council, and in her involvement with SGA, Beans even got to be a part of designing the menu at the Fresh Food Company.
“It was great as a student to be able to go in the cafeteria and see that your idea was considered and brought to life,” she said. “To me it showed that South really listened to our input.”
As a member of the track and field team, Beans is a two-time honorable mention All-American and earned all-Sun Belt Conference honors in the triple jump three times. She set the freshman school record in the triple jump both indoors and outdoors.
Beans said the priority and focus South placed on academics continued long after her recruitment. For instance, Beans said that she began as a biology major, but switched directions a few times until settling on exercise science, with a track that would prepare her for graduate work in physical therapy.
Beans said she was concerned how changing her degree might affect her graduation date, and there was the added stress of such a major decision. Before committing, Beans said, she visited her academic advisor, who helped her navigate the process in a way that did not push back graduation. Actually, she may finish early.
“She let me know it was OK to change my major,” Beans said. “That let me know if I had a problem, they were going to work with me to fix it.”