Kelsey Murrell

Kelsey Murrell

Honors, achievements, and special recognition:

  • University Scholar and Deans Scholar in Honors program
  • Numerous writing awards for playwriting, fiction, and study of literature
  • Former president/founder of CAST (student playwriting organization)
  • Program coordinator for CCO, then chair of advisory board for CCO

How I became interested in my area of study:

I took an honors freshman seminar with Dr. Mary Klayder called, “So you want to be a writer, huh?” and as Mary would say, the rest is history. I have always loved to write but it was the overwhelmingly phenomenal faculty in the English department here who recognized areas of strength or interest and encouraged me to pursue them such as playwriting and immigration narratives. I also took classes across the university in sociology, American studies, and journalism to supplement the topics I studied in literature.

An honor, achievement or accomplishment that is most meaningful to me and why:

Although it is the obvious choice, the most meaningful accomplishment is competing for the Rhodes Scholarship. I say competing for it rather than winning it because it was the process of applying for the Rhodes that forever changed my life. I had a community of incredible people supporting me. I spent months reflecting on the most important issues in my local, national and international communities and what my role in those issues should be. It was a transformative experience that gave me the conviction to pursue my dreams with or without the scholarship.

Someone who has been influential or had a significant impact on my life:

Dr. Maryemma Graham taught my first English course and I affectionally credit her with having whipped my writing (and perhaps my attitude) into shape my freshmen year. I spent hours in her office struggling to improve my writing. Through my writing and conversations with Dr. Graham she discovered challenges I faced in transitioning to college both academically and personally. Through my writing and conversations she helped me overcome both.

Dr. Marta Caminero-Santangelo is an incredible teacher, scholar, writer, activist, and mother. She is the model of the kind of woman I want to be in so many ways. Her conviction to serve others and fight for equality and human rights inspires me. She constantly challenges me to do better and be better.

Dr. Mary Klayder is the most giving and inspiring human I have ever had the great privilege to meet. She encourages her students to follow their passions, challenges them to push themselves to the next level, and all the while she reminds them that “it'll be fine.” No person has had a more positive influence in my life. From the moment I met her, my life was forever-changed and so many of my life lessons have come directly or indirectly from her guidance and understanding.

There truly are no words to express how thankful I am to have had such incredible role-models in the women I have met at KU both in the faculty and in the student body. We are capable of great things, but sometimes it takes seeing the example of other women to show us that. Thank you to all of the women who showed me.

My favorite KU memory:

Studying abroad with Dr. Mary Klayder in London and Costa Rica were the best experiences of my life. I learned about both other cultures. I fell in love with traveling and with meeting people different from myself. I learned to relax and enjoy my life. Of course, on the London Review I spent a day in Oxford, fell in love with it, and decided I wanted it to be my next home.

An important life lesson I have learned:

I have learned the importance of being tender, compassionate, and gracious and at the same time tenacious and strong. We are told too often that we must choose between strength and vulnerability but this is not so. Often being open and honest requires the most courage.

If I had a sister just entering college, I would want her to know…

Study abroad. Get involved. Be a leader by empowering others, not be exercising your power over them. And finally, I would tell her that if she hasn't already learned to love, admire, respect and learn from other women instead of comparing herself to them, now is the time to learn it. We have incredible women at KU. We should stand in solidarity together rather than pitted against one another.

A favorite quote or saying and why it is meaningful to me:

If you don't believe in yourself, who will?
– Dr. Robert Rowland, Communications

Even if you have a community of support, there will come a time when you must possess in your own heart the conviction and courage to believe you can make a difference. Also, his class was life changing. I recommend everyone take his class and/or attend his lecture with the Hall Center this year.