LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 5, 2023) — During the University of Kentucky’s 2023 May Commencement, the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration will celebrate the first full class of undergraduates to earn a bachelor’s degree in public policy.
This visionary group took a leap and joined this brand-new academic program during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I've always had a keen interest in government and politics, and policy was a great route to further my knowledge in those areas. Also, policy touches everything, so I knew it would be a valuable major for my future,” said Andrew Laws, graduating senior and 2022-23 UK student body president.
This was a period when students were unable to meet peers, staff or faculty face-to-face. However, they all had the passion for helping others and creating positive systemic change and decided to take a chance on joining the Martin School.
“Having the shared experience of embarking on a new academic journey created a really tightknit group of people within our program,” said graduating senior Hunter McCormick. “Faculty and staff were always eager to hear feedback about the strengths and improvements for each course and having that feedback loop made me feel valued.”
The public policy program at UK teaches students the practical skills and knowledge they will need to solve problems in the real world, like addressing homelessness in Lexington, creating a more equitable criminal justice system in Kentucky or even reconsidering the allocation of health care resources at the national level.
“I feel as if I was able to gain a more practical understanding of the policymaking process that I can now carry out in the real world,” said graduating senior Olivia Corley.
This group of graduates represents a variety of issues within public policy available to any undergraduate. Areas of focus include health care, social policy, environmental policy, education, public finance, criminal justice and more.
“I chose public policy and administration because of my desire to work in the public sector,” said McCormick. “I’ve always been interested in helping individuals and understanding how the government works.”
With this graduating cohort, the full inaugural class will have received their degrees. Grayson Blount graduated in fall of 2022. He will be joined by Corley, Laws, McCormick, Henri Neblina, Alli Johnson and Logan Kuegel as the first students to achieve a bachelor’s degree in public policy.
Martin School students all have a unique vision for what they want to accomplish with their degree, but one thing is true with them all — they are well prepared to go out and start creating those changes they seek. Out of this first cohort, all have completed at least one internship or research project, four have served in the Student Government Association and all have been involved in campus life, from participating in student organizations to creating them.
“When I first joined the Martin School, I really loved the atmosphere, knowing that it was going to be a smaller program, but I especially loved how much time was spent with each of us students to make sure that we were on the path that we wanted to be on,” said Corley. “Having this open door policy to drop in and talk about classes, internships, career paths, graduate programs, etc., was really helpful for me.”
For faculty of the Martin School, watching the program evolve from inception to actual graduates has been special. It’s also been a unique experience for faculty to watch the students apply their commitment to integrity, equity and excellence to leadership roles on campus, internships throughout the community.
“I will always treasure the students in this first graduating cohort,” said Cory Curl, Ph.D., director of undergraduate studies at the Martin School. “They have shaped our UK public policy community and we’ll long benefit from their influence as more students join us in years to come.”
And the students admit — the faculty made all the difference in their UK experience.
“I always admired the passion of many of the faculty,” said Laws. “Each of them is a master of their trade, and it was a great experience as a student to be able to learn from people who are so knowledgeable about all the intricacies of policy.”
As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.
In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.