MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University has named Morgan Pulliam and JT Payne as the Outstanding Seniors for spring 2019. Students recognized with this honor are known for going above and beyond what is expected of them academically and professionally.

Pulliam is the daughter of James and Kelly Pulliam of Normal, Illinois. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in business administration (international business focus) in May 2019.

“My experience at Murray State has opened my eyes to what is beyond my comfort zone,” Pulliam said. “I’ve always been a shy and quiet person but here, I felt comfortable to be myself. I forged lifelong friendships with people from various walks of life, explored the world and made countless memories. In my four years here, I have learned to embrace challenges, celebrate opportunities and take advantage of adventures.”

Pulliam, a Murray State University Presidential Fellow and Honors College student, has served in a variety of leadership roles in her collegiate career, including work as the head of the Delta Zeta sorority’s standards board, as well as its parliamentarian and academic tutor. Pulliam has also served on the Honors Student Council and as an education abroad peer advisor and Murray State student ambassador.

Pulliam spent fall 2016 studying abroad in Regensburg, Germany, where she excelled in German language and culture courses. She has presented research at the Kentucky Honors Roundtable and will defend her honors thesis, “The Rhetoric of Contemporary Social Movements in the American Public, Private, and Technical Spheres,” in May.

Her accolades include being named a Department of Global Languages and Theatre Arts French Outstanding Student and a finalist for Ms. Murray State University 2018.

Additionally, Pulliam will graduate Murray State with a diverse work history, having served as an education abroad peer advisor with the University’s education abroad office and as public relations chairwoman of the Honors Student Council, where she managed all Honors College social media accounts for two years. She has worked as an enterprise technology intern with State Farm, where she developed, optimized and revamped more than 60 user-facing digital articles for the insurance company’s content hubs, collaborated with business partners in boosting content and worked to enhance the customer experience.

After graduation, Pulliam will look to start her career in the private sector, spend time with family and travel.

“I’ve always had a lot of academic and research interests,” she said. “Thankfully, I’ve had an abundance of mentors here who embrace my ambition. I cannot thank each one of them enough for their help and guidance throughout my journey. My education at Murray State, from undergraduate research to education abroad experiences, has given me the support and preparation to embark confidently on my future career.”

Payne is the son of Jimmy Payne and Penny Cowan, and is from Henderson County, Kentucky. He will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in agriculture and agricultural education in May 2019.

“I am extremely humbled and grateful to receive this honor,” Payne said. “Throughout my collegiate experience, I have had an abundance of support from peers, faculty and family, each of whom I also consider to be outstanding. Without their encouragement and confidence in me, this certainly wouldn’t have been possible.”

Payne, a Murray State University Presidential Fellow and Honors College student who has served as president of the Murray State University Student Government Association since March 2017, has acted as the Murray State Board of Regents’ student regent, advocating for all University students in financial, academic and cultural matters.

In his time on the board, Payne has been part of several subcommittees, including the Murray State Presidential Search Committee, President’s Budget Advisory Committee, Marketing Firm RFP Committee and more.

“Murray State has afforded endless opportunities to me over the past few years,” Payne said. “I encourage all high school students to seriously consider making Murray State your home. It was one of my greatest decisions thus far and a decision I will never regret.”

His other leadership roles include serving as chairman of the Kentucky Board of Student Body Presidents, a campaign coordinator in Kentucky Congressman James Comer’s 2018 re-election campaign, president of the Murray State College Republicans and youth chair of the Henderson County Republican Party Executive Committee.

In addition to his Presidential Fellowship, Payne has been involved with numerous organizations, including Murray State Collegiate FFA and Henderson County FFA Alumni. Payne also serves as a Murray State agriculture student ambassador.

Payne’s work experience includes an agricultural fellowship in Congressman Comer’s Washington, D.C. office, an internship with the Henderson County Cooperative Extension service, a Racer Academy TA position and student teaching at Calloway County High School.

Upon graduation, Payne plans to eventually continue his education. He looks forward to the opportunity to return back to his hometown, starting his career and serving his community.

The May 2019 commencement ceremony will take place May 11 at 9 a.m. in the CFSB Center for graduates of the Bauernfeind College of Business, College of Humanities and Fine Arts and Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology, with a 2 p.m. ceremony planned for graduates of the College of Education and Human Services, Hutson School of Agriculture, School of Nursing and Health Professions and interdisciplinary studies (Associate of General Studies and BIS Degrees). Use #RacerGraduation on social media to share your commencement experience. Additional information about the ceremony and a live stream link are available at

Photo: Murray State University has named Morgan Pulliam, right, and JT Payne as the Outstanding Seniors for spring 2019.

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