To most, the American dream means the opportunity for prosperity and success. But to one Ball State professor, the American dream means life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Kesha Coker, a professor of social media marketing, was recently granted U.S. citizenship after more than a year of waiting.

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Coker wanted to become a U.S. citizen for education and opportunity.

She first came to the United States with a passion for marketing and a Fulbright academic scholarship.

In 2009, Coker visited Washington, D.C., which she said made her want to become an American citizen even more. She was inspired by the history in the capital city, and “felt stronger in her decision.”

“There are bright sides and dark sides to the history, and I think with any country, dark or light, at the end of the day, the values are what define us,” Coker said.

Coker applied for citizenship in 2016, but has been working in the U.S. for years. She previously taught at Eastern Illinois University.

There were one million U.S. citizenship applicants in 2016, but the United States only welcomed a little over 700,000 naturalized citizens. On average, the process to gain citizenship after the initial application is about two to three years.

“Going through the process, you must have a lot of patience and trust that the system will work.” Coker said. “The journey is probably not ever going to be easy but you have to persevere and you have to trust, and you have to believe in the dream, because when you believe in the dream, the dream becomes a reality.”

Coker, who began teaching at Ball State a few months ago, says she came to Muncie because she likes the campus, the people, the opportunities and the focus on students and their learning.

“Ball State culture is that people do care even after only being here two months — they are very supportive of you,” Coker said as she sat by the celebratory red, white and blue flowers her colleagues bought her. 

“Beneficence is the wings of gratitude and gratefulness that’s the way I view it. I’ve been grateful ever since I started here grateful to be part of an experience where I can make a difference, where I could walk into a classroom and help students learn.” 

Coker was initiated in Indianapolis on Oct. 25, where she became a naturalized citizen.

“It feels amazing. I feel like I am living the dream now,” Coker said. “I have more responsibility to this country being a part of it It’s not just about being an American citizen it’s being a part of the community and something bigger it’s being part of helping people continue to dream the dream and live the dream and move forward.”

Contact Katie McDonald with comments