Choreographing busy schedule, student driven to help people

Contact: Erin Flynn
Kendall Owens holding her dancing shoes outside St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dancer. Choreographer. Nurse. Scholar. Mentor. Philanthropist. 

There are many words to describe honors student Kendall Owens; busy might be the most appropriate.

The Plymouth native made it her mission to get the most out of her experience at Western Michigan University from the day she arrived on campus, choosing two majors that on the surface may not seem related—nursing and dance.

"They both deal with quality of life and they're more connected than people realize," says Owens.

As a child, Owens remembers always wanting to help people feel better when they were sick. That passion to help grew as she did.

"I've always found joy in helping others excel and overcome life challenges," says Owens, whose family suggested she consider nursing as she began thinking about her career path. "I fell in love with it. It gives me the opportunity to serve and positively impact the lives of others through caring interactions."

Owens is part of WMU's Empowering Nursing Students for Success program. Funded through a Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant, it offers financial assistance and academic support to recruit, retain and graduate more students from underrepresented groups. 

"Mentors and professors in the program provided valuable information regarding navigating the health care system and fulfilling requirements to launch into my career as a nurse," Owens says. "I feel that the program embraces my individuality and recognizes my status as a minority, helping me feel more included in the field of nursing."

Owens says her ultimate goal is to work in the emergency room or intensive care unit in a hospital. She found the fast pace of emergency care suits her during an internship at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.

"I also want to continue dancing, so I will probably try to find a company that will work with my hospital schedule or maybe try to find some freelance work," says Owens, who was the featured choreographer at WMU's 2018 Winter Gala Dance Concert.

While she solidifies her future plans, Owens will dive headfirst into the nonprofit she founded in 2017, called the New Generation Fine Arts Foundation. It focuses on making the arts more accessible to minorities and young artists in metro Detroit who are developmentally disabled or have mental health concerns.

"When I was younger, I would travel to places like New York, Chicago and L.A. for dance competitions, and I noticed that I was one of the only minorities there. The cost of going to these events or the knowledge and connections to people who know about the events wasn't very present where I'm from," Owens says. Her foundation offers mentoring, tutoring and access to experiences in the arts to participating students.

She's gained mentoring experience at WMU through the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Scholars Academy.  Owens participated in the academy and went on to become a leader, coaching new students and guiding them toward academic success on campus.

Now she'll take all of the insight and experiences she racked up on campus and use them as a springboard for her future.

"I've had the opportunity and been challenged to further develop introspection, interpersonal relationships and be a lifelong learner as I depart," says Owens. "I'm happy I chose Western because of the community we have here; we strive for excellence for every student in every type of way."

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.