AIKCU Voices: Amber Mills, UPIKE ’18

For 2020 we’ve been asking students and alumni of Kentucky’s independent colleges and universities to share something about their college experiences in a series we’ve been calling AIKCU Voices. If you’d like to share your story, email us at info@aikcu.org.

Side-by-side photos of UPIKE alumna and ER nurse Amber Mills

The University of Pikeville holds an important place in my heart. I remember the first time I stepped on campus to tour as a high school senior, something just felt different about it that I hadn’t gotten on any other campus I had visited. I knew it was home. For four years, that feeling never left. From faculty to staff I knew people on a first name basis, I knew what their kids were up to, I knew their favorite snacks, and they knew all about me too. At any moment I knew there was an open ear and open arms if I needed them and there were always hands to keep pushing me to not give up and keep working hard.

When I was in nursing school this was a saving grace. With the pressure of an upcoming exam or the stress after a tough clinical, it was likely visible that I was exhausted and it was great to have a custodian in the hall say, “Did you have that exam today? Remember, you can do it, it’s just a test, you’re going to do great!” Even being able to sit and have lunch with the President of the university and hear words of encouragement and support changed my college experience for the better. I had the opportunity to go to larger schools but the small school environment shaped me and prepared me for life in a way that I could never have found on a big campus. I see that now more than ever now that I am in my career. 

I had the opportunity to go to larger schools but the small school environment shaped me and prepared me for life in a way that I could never have found on a big campus. I see that now more than ever now that I am in my career. 

I work in a busy ER in southeastern Kentucky. Tensions run high as there is so much pressure to work hard, fast, and smart. It’s a dangerous job and my life or health is at risk in many ways, from potential needle sticks to dealing with combative patients. It’s safe to say it is hectic and exhausting; however, I feel prepared and I keep going.

The education that I received at the Elliott School of Nursing at the University of Pikeville prepared me for this–the professors and instructors helped mold me for this, along with the man upstairs. That small school environment allowed me to be an individual that my professors could invest in rather than being a number or a face in the crowd. They cared about my preparedness and readiness for the future and made sure I got there.

I can still hear my instructors saying to my class, “you are the future”, “you are going to be the difference one day.” I get chills now because they were right. I never knew I would be a frontline fighter of a pandemic. This wasn’t in the plan, but I was ready because the University of Pikeville and the Elliott School of Nursing believed in me and gave me the tools I needed. I am proud to be from a small school, I am proud to be a UPIKE alum. Once a Bear always a Bear! 

Amber Mills
Former UPIKE student government president, current ER nurse
University of Pikeville ’18