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Graduate Spotlight – Alice Kennedy Achieves Lifelong Educational Goal

A dream that once seemed out of reach is about to come true for one School of Public Health & Information Sciences graduate student. Alice Kennedy, a first-generation college student, is completing a Master in Public Health (MPH) degree with a concentration in Health Promotion and will graduate on May 11, 2018.

Education has always been a high priority for her and her family. She said, “There was never a question if I was going to go to college, it was just which one. I had strict marching orders to aim for the stars, so I did.”

Alice attended New York University for her undergraduate degree. However, upon graduation she wasn’t sure what her next step would be. She wanted to attend graduate school, possibly even law school, but financially it wasn’t feasible.

After working as a paralegal, she decided that law may not be the best path for her so she began to explore opportunities in healthcare. She started working at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia with the NeuroRecovery Network to advance spinal cord injury research.

This is where her journey at UofL began. The lead data manager of the NeuroRecovery Network, a Ph.D. student at UofL, asked Alice to apply for a position to work for her at UofL. 

Alice said that as she listened to the explanation of job duties, her mind wandered: "Kentucky? Louisville? NeuroRecovery Network data management full time? Am I crazy?" When she realized that this would be an opportunity to receive full tuition remission for graduate school, she said, "I could go to school? Graduate school? And be a graduate student? A real live graduate student? FOR REAL?" Her future supervisor started laughing and said yes.

"It is only a mild exaggeration to say that I went home that day and packed my bags, and cats, and my partner and I drove to Louisville where Dr. Susan Harkema, Dr. Andrea Behrman, the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center and the School of Public Health and Information Sciences awaited me.”

Upon beginning her last year of graduate school, Alice received the heartbreaking news that her father had been diagnosed with cancer. However, he forbade her from letting his health interrupt her studies. “My walking across this stage was the most important thing to him, Alice explained.

SPHIS has felt like her home away from home for Alice. She said, “Once I decided to continue my studies uninterrupted to stay on track for this graduation, it felt as though the whole school made it their mission to ensure I achieved my goal. It was grueling and challenging and at times miserable. But with the support I received here, failure was never an option.”

Alice wanted to share her story as a way of thanking everyone at UofL who played a role in helping her achieve her goal of graduating. She hopes her story will inspire others to never give up on their dreams.

“Since the day I walked through the doors of UofL, first as an employee and a few months later as I became a student – GRADUATE student – the only limitations I have met are my own imagination and my estimation of my own abilities.”

She concluded by offering one final piece of advice: “We must all proceed as though success is inevitable.”

After graduation, Alice will begin her new career at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. We have no doubt that her father will be looking down and proudly smiling as she walks across the stage.

We wish Alice and all SPHIS graduates continued success on your individual journeys. 

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