Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States once said, “It is not easy to be a pioneer – but oh, it is fascinating!”
Eastern Kentucky University graduate McKenna Revel shared similar sentiments on May 12 when she became EKU’s first (and currently only) social justice studies graduate.
The Mount Sterling native discussed her experience as the first student in the program in her student commencement address for the College of Justice and Safety.
“There were no examples for me to follow,” she said. “There was no one to provide reassurance, no statistics on job availability or job acquisition, furthering education, or even a graduation rate.”
It was certainly intimidating, but Revel found hope in her classmates, advisers and professors who challenged her, encouraged her, and reminded her why she had chosen the field. She was especially grateful for Dr. Judah Schept, associate professor in the School of Justice Studies, and Dr. Dawn Rothe, professor and chair of the same department, whose teaching and mentoring Revel will long remember.
As a women and gender studies (WGS) minor, Revel was also highly appreciative of Dr. Lisa Day, program director. “Without her, the intersectionality of my courses would have been far less. My minor has served me in every single course and has been an enrichment to the social justice curriculum.”
Between her WGS and social justice classes, Revel learned of a world where justice and equality are often taken for granted, and it is easy to forget that not everyone has been afforded the same privileges. But she reminded her listeners that as future lawyers, police officers, paralegals and more, they have not only the opportunity, but the responsibility, to help the underprivileged, the felons, the minorities, the women and children in need.
“We have all chosen the college and our respective fields because we have a passionate urge to help people,” she said. “We seek to understand what goes wrong in the lives of others. In our own way, we attempt to heal what has been harmed, mend what has been broken, and restore what has been lost.”
Revel concluded her remarks by urging her classmates to remember the pride they felt as they were about to receive their degrees. She conceded that it may not always be easy, with monotonous days and overwhelming paperwork. But she told her listeners that, even in those moments, they should remember that what seems like a just another 9-5 to them may be the most difficult day of someone else’s life. It may be the day someone has lost a family member to violent crime or watched their home be destroyed in a fire. It may be the day a child was taken from a home by social services, or the day a teenager faced his or her first drug charge.
Whatever the case, justice and safety professionals, she said, have the power to make that person’s day a little better, whether through a cup of coffee or a simple smile.
“There is no act of kindness too small. Today, you have been bestowed a gift. When it is your turn to pass it along, remember that no person, community, or country has ever been made less great by giving.”
— by Yasmin White, Student Writer, EKU Communications & Brand Management