A student’s passions, dreams and aspirations can often truly be realized with the support of the right professor. At WKU, Jasmine Kelly found a mentor who did just this in Professor Monica Burke.
Jasmine graduated from WKU in 2016 with a Master’s degree in Higher Education, and is now a Student Affairs Advisor at Georgia State University working for The Office of Black Student Achievement. Under the mentorship of Dr. Monica Burke, Jasmine undertook several initiatives at WKU that sharpened her skills and empowered her to eventually become a mentor herself. Today, Jasmine is also currently entering her fourth year as a doctoral student in the Higher Education Leadership Program at Clark Atlanta University. Both her current job and doctoral research were heavily influenced by her work with Dr. Monica Burke.
Leading the Outstanding Black Graduate Ceremony at WKU
In 2015, Jasmine was an intern in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at WKU. As her main project for her internship, her mentor, Dr. Monica Burke recommended her to be the intern for “The Outstanding Black Graduate Ceremony” in 2015, a cultural ceremony conducted each year by Dr. Burke.
Jasmine spearheaded this ceremony as a practicum experience from inception to completion, planning and implementing the entire ceremony. Her tasks included organizing the ceremony’s agenda, communication with student attendees, arranging photography, procuring stoles for the graduates, as well as hiring the guest speaker.
Having a leader trust her to take on leadership positions was important for Jasmine’s development. “Dr. Burke trusted me to implement this entire project on her behalf,” she says. “I felt honored, as this was her ‘baby,’ and she believed in me!” Much to the delight of Dr. Burke, WKU faculty, the students, and of course, Jasmine, the ceremony was a success and taught Jasmine key leadership skills.
Publication to share key learnings
Dr. Burke also frequently empowers her students to share their ideas and research findings via publication in academic journals and books. In 2019, Dr. Burke co-edited a three-volume book series entitled No Ways Tired: The Journey for Professionals of Color in Student Affairs.
Under the guidance of Dr. Burke, Jasmine wrote a key chapter in in this book entitled When Grateful Isn’t Good Enough: How African American Women Can Successfully and Strategically Navigate Professionally in Student Affairs. This chapter explores how African American Women can grow in a student affairs career, an ever-widening industry that often lacks adequate representation. Jasmine says she wrote the chapter after reflecting on conversations with her mother. When Jasmine expressed discontent with certain employment positions to her mother, or was concerned about issues at her job, it was common for her mother and other family members to advise her to just be grateful for the work and to stay where she was. Of course, some of these family members live in a different time, where in many workplace women were expected to demonstrate this passive nature in their work.
“Ultimately, I have found that you don’t have to work where you’re not happy or fulfilled. If you want to better yourself, you have to put action behind that thought, but it starts with you. You have to make the change; you have to speak up – and we have to learn that it’s OK for black women to speak up, especially in the workplace,” says Jasmine. Now, through her work with Dr. Burke, Jasmine has the ability to convey these powerful lessons to other women who might face the same struggles.
Dr. Burke also invited Jasmine to attend the Southern Association for College Student Affairs (SACSA) conference in the Fall of 2018. The mission of SACSA is to advance opportunities for professional development, research, and ethical practice within the student affairs field. SACSA aims to broaden the understanding of issues impacting both students and the student affairs profession as a whole, while fostering its core values of inclusiveness, professionalism and collegiality.
Jasmine participated on an advisory panel for this conference, aiding and advising graduate students in furthering their professional development. Jasmine underscored that this experience was transformative in allowing her to pass on the skills Dr. Burke had taught her to other students. “When you can thrive in an environment that differs from your normal one, it simply builds your confidence,” she says. “Through this experience, I was able to empower other students with the tools that Dr. Burke made available to me. And that is how we build better communities that are capable of thriving.”
Looking back and moving forward
Jasmine says she will be forever grateful for her amazing experience at WKU, and the guidance and mentorship she received from Dr. Burke. “Dr. Burke truly believed in me, and that matters. She wants students to be the best possible versions of themselves, and she will lift them up to achieve even greater goals than they imagined.” As Jasmine looks back on her experience at WKU, she is compelled to keep moving forward to grow her career and support other students.
Jasmine is currently writing her dissertation, and will graduate with her Doctorate in Education in December 2020. After this, she aims to take a position in higher education where she can influence policies and higher education trajectories for students, especially those that are underserved–a commitment that began with her time at WKU. To learn more about Jasmine Kelly, please contact her on LinkedIn.com.