Select Page

Many have testified to the unique bond between mother and daughter. Melanie and Sarah Franklin demonstrated that connection to the world when they graduated from Eastern Kentucky University together.

Sarah Franklin graduated May 11 from the College of Business and Technology with bachelor’s degrees in management and international business, a minor in Asian studies and a certificate in Japanese. Her mother, Melanie Franklin, graduated May 12 from the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies.

“My children and my husband, Russ, inspired me to get my degree,” Melanie said. She attended the University of Kentucky for two semesters but married just after her freshman year and did not return to school. Now, she works for EKU as a development support specialist. Employment at the University gave her a tuition waiver, which her family encouraged her to use. According to Melanie, her husband and children often helped around the house, giving her more time to study.

The two have been integral to each other’s education from the beginning. In 2013, after Sarah graduated from Madison Central High School, she enrolled in two summer courses: Essentials of Nutrition and Basic Social Intelligence. With her daughter’s blessing, Melanie enrolled in both classes alongside Sarah. “Everyone in both classes knew we were mother and daughter, and they would laugh when we would look to see who got a higher score,” said Melanie. “We are both just a little competitive.”  

Far from competitors, the mother-and-daughter pair were each other’s biggest fans. “Sarah has always been an inspiration to me because she always knew what she wanted to do and she did it,” Melanie said. After her freshman year, Sarah became a member of EKU’s nationally prominent Honors Program. She later became the first Westerner to earn an internship with Hitachi Automotive Systems in Tokyo, Japan. I know she has put a great deal of work into her accomplishments, and she made it look so easy. She has been there helping me constantly, even when she was in Japan.”

Sarah earned her internship in human resources with Hitachi with the help of Kirby Easterling, executive-in-residence of the Department of Management, Marketing and International Business. By networking with Easterling’s contacts, she gained a position with the Hitachi branch in Berea, Kentucky, eventually spending a month at the Tokyo branch.

Interning with Hitachi grew Sarah both personally and professionally. Like many students, she entered college unsure of what field to pursue. She changed majors and added minors until a year and a half before graduation, when a study abroad excursion changed her course. She settled into the course of study with which she graduated and found her passion.

“My dream is to work in Japan to help promote work-style reform and diversity within globalizing Japanese companies,” Sarah shared. She hopes to do this by developing cultural sensitivity programs. “This dream has been created and influenced due to my educational experiences received while attending EKU.”

The experience further shaped Sarah into the person she is today. Her work at Hitachi allowed her to develop new skills, face unique challenges and solve problems. More than that, her time in Japan provided her with “deeper awareness, understanding, appreciation, and acceptance for divergent worldviews.”

Sarah appears to have inherited her drive from her mother, describing her with words like “inspiration” and “role model.” The married mother of three graduated magna cum laude while juggling a family, a career and classes. “She is the true embodiment of how sheer motivation and determination can propel one to succeed in their dreams,” Sarah said of her mom. “Her strive and work ethic have been moving to watch and have showed me that if I put my mind to it, giving my all, I can achieve anything.” 

Melanie found a supportive environment in which to continue her education at EKU, both as a student and an employee. My supervisors have been wonderful to work with,” she said. “They have allowed me to take some of my classes during work hours, so I either came in early or stayed late to make up the time difference.”

As a student, Melanie found a home with the “phenomenal” faculty of the communication department. Her first contact in the program was with Krista Kimmel, a senior lecturer. “I took her CMS 200 Interpersonal Communication course, and I loved it,” she recalled. “I decided communication studies was the major for me.” She has since taken communications classes such as negotiation, mediation, conflict management and event planning. “These courses have helped me in my current position and will help in my professional goals,” she said.

Melanie and Sarah could often be found studying or doing homework together at their dining room table. After completing her coursework, Melanie ended her education the same way she began: by asking her daughter’s blessing.  “I did ask Sarah if it was OK for us to graduate together. I didn’t want to take away from her big day,” she said. “She told me she was proud of me, and, of course, she didn’t mind.”

— by Madison Harris, student writer, EKU Communications & Brand Management