Baileys do it better: Five siblings earn eight degrees from Auburn University

baileys do it Better 5 siblings 8 degrees all auburn typography
If you’ve been on Auburn University’s campus in the last decade, there’s a good chance you’ve run into a Bailey.
Charlotte Tuggle

or 10 years, five siblings – Harlan, Kayla, Jakobi, Jordan and Diani Bailey – have excelled at Auburn. Each has their own story, made lasting changes to Auburn and graduated as successful alumni.

Harlan, Kayla, Jakobi, Jordan and Diani Bailey holding up fingers for which number sibling they are and went to Auburn with blue sky and trees in background
Harlan Bailey headshot

Harlan Bailey II ’18

Harlan Bailey II wasn’t the first sibling convinced to go to Auburn, but he was the one who blazed a trail for his siblings to make Auburn a home away from home.

As soon as Harlan arrived, he got invested in the university through his fraternity, the Theta Delta Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., student services in the College of Agriculture and Camp War Eagle, during which he welcomed students to campus and introduced them to the opportunities they had at Auburn.

“That was the first time I think in my life where I sat in a room full of people and just didn’t feel different. I didn’t feel like an outsider,” Harlan said. “That community showed me that I didn’t have to change to be a leader. I could be as loud as possible, but still get the work done and still be respected. Getting into my career, going into education, a lot of that is because of the Camp War Eagle community.”

Top left Harlan with with both parents, top right harlan smiling big on campus, bottom left harlan with a microphone on field at auburn, bottom right harlan standing in formation with other students
A love of family, friends and being an educator motivated Harlan through the obstacles he encountered at Auburn. His major, interdisciplinary studies in the College of Liberal Arts, allowed him to combine sociology, leadership and agricultural business.

Harlan currently teaches 11th grade U.S. history and serves as department head of social studies in the Dallas Independent School District. He said everything he did at Auburn prepared him to be a teacher and administrator.

Getting into my career, going into education, a lot of that is because of the Camp War Eagle community.
“When I was at Auburn, I was in leadership roles with people that were only a year younger than me. I tried to be a friend, but also a leader, and help them figure out how to ask questions and make them feel as secure as possible in themselves,” Harlan said. “There were a lot of answers I had to figure out on my own, and I made sure all of my siblings had the answers. I make sure all of my students now have the answers. I’d rather you ask a ‘dumb’ question inside of my classroom. If you ask it outside of here, the world’s going to chew you up and spit you out. It was creating safe spaces in Auburn that led me to that as a teacher.”
Harlan Bailey accepting Be the Creed award.
Kayla Bailey headshot

Kayla Bailey ’19

When Kayla came to Auburn, she moved in with her brother Harlan. Despite sharing a condo, Kayla said she practically lived in the architecture building.

During her time in the College of Architecture, Design and Construction (CADC), Kayla rebuilt and led the National Organization of Minority Architects student chapter to second place in a national design competition, studied abroad in Rome and became a counselor for the same Auburn Youth Programs camps that inspired her to go to Auburn.

While she built a name for herself in architecture, Kayla also got to see her siblings succeed at Auburn. She said some of her favorite memories include seeing her younger brother, Jakobi, find himself at Auburn and taking her younger sister, Diani, to a football game.

“We didn’t have to start from ground zero,” Kayla said. “That was one of the big things about all of us being on campus, and that shaped our experience with being siblings on campus. We were all such different personalities, but we’ve just grown up with each other, so we’ve known how to play off of them, to strengthen each other.”

Kayla and Harlan smiling together
Kayla showing her family her proect in classroom
Kayla, who earned degrees in architecture and interior architecture, currently works as a graduate architect and interior designer at Williams Blackstock Architects in Birmingham. She’s worked on the Protective Stadium, Legacy Arena, Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport and Carver Theatre for the Performing Arts, all within just four years of graduating.

After Diani, the youngest sibling, graduated, Kayla said she realized that 10 years of Baileys on campus is ending, and they’re all starting a new chapter, doing different things across the country.

Auburn’s just played such a big part of our lives, but I think it set us all up for some success in our future, so it’s not like a goodbye forever.
“Now the connection is sort of coming to a close, so it’s going to be an adjustment a little bit because Auburn’s just played such a big part of our lives, but I think it set us all up for some success in our future, so it’s not like a goodbye forever,” Kayla said. “It’s a goodbye for now, and hopefully my kids will be Auburn grads. I’ll push them in that direction, so I’ll be back eventually. But if any of our kids go, we’re buying a condo.”
Jakobi Bailey headshot

Jakobi Bailey ’21

Jakobi Bailey chose Auburn so he could follow his siblings, Harlan and Kayla. On campus, Jakobi excelled at meeting new people and creating the same kind of welcoming atmosphere that he experienced from having siblings at Auburn.

“I enjoyed the campus every time we visited. Having my siblings there and enjoying the atmosphere turned it into a home away from home,” Jakobi said. “There isn’t one memory that I could choose over others because there are so many. I would say that what I’ll remember most is the people I encountered while I was there. I was able to make friends and work with people I’ll be in touch with for my entire life.”

Jakobi channeled his love of athletics into his study of kinesiology in the College of Education, where he started his career in strength and conditioning coaching. Since graduating, Jakobi has worked with teams at the University of Montevallo, University of Tennessee and Northern Arizona University.

He said sharing Auburn alumni status with his siblings means the world. Someday, he hopes he can leave a more physical mark on campus to represent their bond with each other and to Auburn.

“We’re very close in age and have a close relationship, so for all of us to have this same great accomplishment can’t even be put into words for me,” Jakobi said. “I eventually want to try and get a bench on campus that can seat five people with a plaque on it, so we can have a way of showing what Auburn meant to all five of us and have something to remember our achievement down there.”

I eventually want to try and get a bench on campus that can seat five people with a plaque on it, so we can have a way of showing what Auburn meant to all five of us and have something to remember our achievement down there.
Jakobi with graduate cap on and standing next Kinesiology Building sign
Jakobi graduated in 2021 with a degree in kinesiology: fitness, conditioning and performance. He is currently pursuing a master’s in educational leadership at Northern Arizona University.
Jordan Bailey headshot

Jordan Bailey ’22, ’24

Despite being the fourth sibling to graduate from Auburn, Jordan Bailey knew first that he’d attend.

Since the fourth grade, Jordan knew he wanted to study engineering at Auburn. Once he arrived, he also leveraged his political science knowledge from the College of Liberal Arts and his various roles in the Student Government Association (SGA) to make lasting change to campus.

“It’s so rewarding because you get to actually see the campus change,” Jordan said. “One of the biggest things I changed was a bunch of the election laws. It’s really cool seeing the law that I changed in action the next year. It’s just interesting to be like, ‘Oh, I actually can make a difference on campus, a direct change to different parts behind the scenes of Auburn.’”

Jordan SGA campaign poster
Jordan said his most important accomplishment through SGA was the groundwork he laid for the creation of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program, which trains Auburn University Medical Center nurses to conduct forensic exams and administer medication in the aftermath of a sexual assault.

When he got the call that the SGA had succeeded, he said it encapsulated everything that made him proud to be an Auburn student.

“I don’t always love Auburn, but I’ll always believe in it,” Jordan said. “Because it’s not perfect, it’s got a lot of flaws, it’s got a lot of scars, it’s got a lot of history that it needs to work on. But at the end of the day, I believe that there’s a place where a lot of people can come and succeed and actually get better, find the career they want, find the group they want. There really is a place for every single person at Auburn.”

There really is a place for every single person at Auburn.
Jordan graduated in 2022 with bachelor’s degrees in industrial and systems engineering and political science. In 2024, he will earn a master’s degree in industrial and systems engineering.
Jordan running holding sign at camp war eagle
Diani Bailey headshot

Diani Bailey ’23

When Diani got to Auburn, everyone already knew a Bailey. She said the relationships her siblings grew before her opened doors for her to get involved. During her time at Auburn, Diani held leadership positions in the Kappa Upsilon Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., BSU, SGA and the Auburn University Initiative for Representation in Nursing.

Diani also served as a student recruiter in the College of Liberal Arts, which allowed her to share her family’s experience at Auburn.

“I feel like as the youngest, it’s not really a competition, but I had big shoes to fill,” Diani said. “I got to influence other people, not only from my experience, but my siblings’ experiences as well. That was extremely beneficial, and it was just fun to let other people know about our time here, because we did a lot. It’s been a beautiful experience for me because I got to make my own story at Auburn, and my siblings planted those roots.”

Diani chose a degree in health services administration to advocate for patients and find ways to enhance the affordability, quality and accessibility of health care. She complemented her major with a minor in business administration to combine administrative and clinical expertise to improve health care.

In summer 2023, Diani was selected to be the College of Liberal Arts graduation marshal. The marshal leads the graduating class in commencement ceremonies, and the student chosen exemplifies academic, extracurricular and leadership excellence.

At graduation, all four of her siblings, her parents and grandmother, Clustie Ford, attended the grand finale of the Baileys’ decade-long Auburn journey.

Diani standing in front of a display for her sorority
It’s been a beautiful experience for me because I got to make my own story at Auburn, and my siblings planted those roots.
Diani Bailey headshot with greenery in background
“We were already close, but Auburn really just pulled us closer,” Diani said. “Basically, this started 10 years ago, and we beat the statistics. That means so much. Even at graduation, it didn’t hit me, but it meant the world to me. That’s the best way I can say it. Walking across that stage, being the student marshal, just looking at my four siblings and seeing how proud they were in that moment meant everything because they held my hand to get me through Auburn.”

Diani graduated in 2023 with a degree in health services in administration. In spring 2024, she will enroll in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s accelerated master’s in nursing program. Afterward, she plans to earn a doctorate and become a nurse practitioner.
Diani walking as grad marshall at graduation

The Bailey Bunch

Each Bailey sibling said they couldn’t have done it without their father and mother, Rev. Harlan L. Bailey I and Corliss Bailey.

Harlan I, a retired a pastor and chaplain, went above and beyond to ensure his children had access to higher education.

“The work of the ministry led us to Alabama, and along the way, we were fortunate to have a community of family, friends and faith that helped shape their character, faith, education, skills and their love of serving humanity, among many other things,” Harlan Sr., said. “It’s the culmination of all those experiences that make us peacock-proud that all five of our children have successfully matriculated through such an academically prestigious university as Auburn University and become alumni who are competent, creative and compassionate members of society in varying ways.”

Baileys standing at the front of  Lupton Residence Hall
While we believe in our children, we also believe in Auburn University.
Corliss said neither she nor their father took college lightly. She learned everything she could about the opportunities at Auburn, made connections to the Auburn community and secured scholarships for her children to attend summer camps and afford tuition – sometimes while working three jobs.

“While we are cognizant of the fact that college isn’t for everyone, we believe that attaining a college degree can be a launching pad for allowing young women and men to hone in on what they love to do and hopefully segue them into being a blessing for the betterment of the world,” Corliss said. “Auburn University was the school that fit the bill and gave our children the best chance for that to happen. While we believe in our children, we also believe in Auburn University.”

All the Baileys smiling at Diani's graduation