Kylie Hamacher literally grew up at Saint Leo University. So, she was destined to pursue her higher education there upon graduating from high school.

Hamacher, 20, is a native of Dade City, FL and a 2018 alumna of Pasco High School. She has a 15-year-old lab mix, Abbie, and a white cat named Feistmeister because of his feisty personality.

Why Saint Leo University Was an Easy Choice for College

Her mom, Paige Ramsey-Hamacher, is the executive director of the Center for Global Engagement at Saint Leo where she has worked for 24 years. So, it was a natural fit for her daughter to enroll there.

"Saint Leo has always been my second home," the younger Hamacher says. "I basically grew up on campus. Everyone there is family, and anyone new who comes there becomes family."

She recalls her interactions with some of the students there as a young girl.

"When I was little, two students and my dad were watching me during a fall family festival on campus," she says. "They gave me this huge thing of cotton candy to eat. After I ate it, my mom said I was like the Tasmanian devil."

It was even Fr. Michael Cooper who helped them adopt their dog, Abbie.

Landing on the Bachelor's in Psychology Degree Program

Enrolling in the fall of 2018, Hamacher started out as a student in the bachelor's in biology program. "I started out as a bio major because I originally wanted to be a vet," she explains. "I absolutely adore animals and would love to work with them. As my freshman year went on, I started to realize that it just wasn't the best fit for me. My friends noticed this as well, and it was one of my best friends who helped me choose the psychology degree program instead."

So, she decided to switch to the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a Clinical/Counseling focus. She also discovered that she could work in animal therapy to combine her love of animals with the concept of helping people.

"People have told me that I'm very attentive and a good listener," she says. "I decided that I wanted to help kids in grief and trauma counseling and use animal therapy to do this."

Plus, her goal is to have a farm someday.

"When I have kids, I want to live on a farm and have my kids be responsible for helping to take care of the animals. It will teach them compassion."

Impactful Saint Leo Instructors

When asked about her favorite Saint Leo instructors, several names immediately come to her mind.

"Dr. Kevin Kieffer is my advisor, and I was referred to him by a former advisee. He told her that the career she was originally looking at probably wouldn't fit her too well, and after he suggested another option, she decided to pursue it and is loving it. To me, that says a lot. I also love his dry sense of humor in class. It's the best."

She also has Dr. Christopher Wolfe, an assistant professor of psychology, at the top of her list.

"He always brings the dad jokes," she says. "I love him and I'm so ready for his class this fall."

She has completed three courses thus far in the psychology degree program – Intro to Psychology, Foundations of Psychology and Psychological Well-Being.

Working at University Campus

Hamacher has held a few different jobs at University Campus. She has worked with Tyler Sanders and the student success coaches team by answering the phone and helping with orientation. She also worked in the religion and theology department answering the phone, getting the mail and providing feedback on course materials. She thoroughly enjoyed working with Dr. Randall Woodard, Prof. Vincent McCoige, Dr. Michael Novak, Thomas Poynor and Dr. Matthew Tapie.

This summer, she has been working with student affairs, a job in which she scans and prints documents and helps in other areas. She has also been painting kindness rocks that are displayed around campus, making masks out of t-shirts and is assisting with orientation for new students.

An Active Leader

Hamacher currently serves as president of the Intercultural Student Association on campus.

"I started off as one of the event planners within ISA," she explains. "Then I became vice president and worked closely with Angeleah Smith, the president at the time. When she stepped down, I became president in the fall of 2019."

For her, this role has been a wonderful learning experience in so many ways.

"As president, I've learned to say that I like someone's idea but think it might not logistically work for a particular reason. I've really learned how to be a good leader who is compassionate and listens to all of the input from others."

She has a unique nickname she bestows on certain individuals as well.

"If I care about people, I will call them my children."

She has also been a member of several committees within the Campus Activities Board (CAB). She has served on the arts and speakers committee and the marketing committee.

To top it all off, she is a member of the Saint Leo Singers and Saint Leo Chamber Singers choral groups.

Saint Leo University's Core Values

According to Hamacher, Saint Leo's core values of community and personal development have resonated with her most during her time as a student – and even as a child spending time on campus.

"Like I've said, this is my second home. This is a very familial community to me. I went to my first Christmas party with my mom as a six-week-old there. I have also developed personally by learning to be a good person, how to effectively communicate with others and learning about each individual's background before I form an opinion of someone."

Helping Furry Friends

Thanks to her love of animals, she has done a fair amount of pet-sitting. She recalls her first experience with this and how she had to be a quick learner.

"For my first pet-sitting job, I took care of a husky, Chihuahua, seven cats and one potbelly pig for two weeks."

She has also pet-sit for a family with three Boston terriers, a dachshund and two cats.

"When I'm taking care of any animals that go outside, I have to listen for owls, poisonous Bufo toads and fire ants. I have to watch them like a hawk."

Free Time Fun

When not studying and away from campus activities, Hamacher has been singing for several years with Sing Out Tampa Bay, a chorus that is part of the Florida Orchestra. Perhaps her desire for singing came from her grandmother who she says bears a striking resemblance to British actress and singer Julie Andrews.

As for reading, she loves C.S. Lewis, the Harry Potter series, James Patterson's Maximum Ride series and Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. When her nose isn't found in a book, she dabbles in acrylic painting and, fittingly, painted a lion during orientation for her freshman year.

She is also a mug collector and has some from Lilo & Stitch, Supernatural, The Phantom of the Opera and Hamilton.

Baking has been a big hobby for her as well.

"I love making black cherry chocolate-covered cupcakes. I used to make them and bring them to high school and I've continued the tradition at Saint Leo. I hope to do this wherever I work in my career as well."

Photo credit: The photographs included in this blog article were provided by Kylie Hamacher and are used with permission.