Graduate Reflection: Willard reflects “Nothing short of an enriching educational and professional journey”

“Nothing short of an enriching educational and professional journey”


By Mckinze Willard


Four years ago, I was sitting in my senior English class at Bullitt East High School, and my dad walked in with a signature red towel to celebrate my acceptance into Western Kentucky University’s Honors College. There’s no question, I was always meant to move through this campus, institution, and community, and it still feels like a natural home.  After finishing my undergraduate degree in three years, I decided to stay for graduate school because I simply wasn’t ready to leave home.


Albert Einstein said this, “The only reason for time is so that not everything happens at once.” My time as a graduate assistant for the WKU ALIVE Center has been nothing short of an enriching educational and professional journey.  I worked with the Center for two years as an intern, one year as a student worker, and now as a graduate assistant. I am wrapping up my first year in the Master of Social Work program here at WKU, I am still finding that after all these years, the ALIVE Center continues to round me out as a person, student, and professional.


Working in the Hill House program this year, I’ve had the opportunity to have my hands in the building of the neighborhood association, programming with Project LIFE at the Academy at Eleventh Street, and an asset mapping community research project.  I’m particularly interested in how communities develop and organize to affect positive change in the environment.  As a student, I’m currently researching the effects of service-learning on civic attitudes and skills, as well as effective exercise based interventions for older adults with Alzheimer’s Disease.


My defining takeaway from this year was recently, when myself, Keira, and Omega presented our On Top Tuesday talk over Formation: The Self Care Edition.  We presented over the concept of racial battle fatigue and how it affects the multi-cultural experience.  As a Hill House GA, it’s important to me that we start conversations that make an impact and get students and community members thinking about the world they are moving through.


Looking forward to my second year, I’ll be moving into a $100 Solution graduate assistant position, working with a program I’ve loved for many years. I’m excited for the opportunity to grow in new directions, learning from students and community partners that are yet to come!”


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