Kayla Harris

Psychology and Women's and Gender Studies double major

An outgoing personality and a conviction to address racial and socioeconomic injustices have shaped Kayla Harris’s Duquesne journey and professional path forward.

The Beaver County, Pa. native arrived at Duquesne as an undeclared transfer student with bigger goals to use medicine to address the societal problems she saw and wanted to learn more about and to make an impact on the world. After much thought, Harris decided on pursuing a double major in Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies with minors in Sociology and Pre-Medical.

Connecting with the Center for Community-Engaged Teaching and Research (CETR) was a milestone moment for her. “CETR is one of my best takeaways from Duquesne. It has really helped me discover who I am as a Black person, who I am to other people and who I am to America.”

CETR’s Community Engaged Scholars program attracts students who want to learn more about systemic injustice and want to be involved as student-leaders for community engagement at Pittsburgh area non-profit organizations. After a highly selective process, Harris was accepted into the CETR program where she worked alongside Duquesne’s neighbors at the Macedonia Family and Community Enrichment Center which supports families in need of food, housing and educational resources.

On campus, Harris was actively involved with student organizations, taking many leadership positions. She served as a resident assistant in St. Martin Hall and received the 2021 Student Life Leadership Award. “Programming was definitely one of my favorite parts of Residence Life, especially the diversity pillar. I tried my best to make sure my residents understood the importance of diversity on our floor and out in the community.”

Additionally, she served as executive vice president of the Black Student Union (BSU), a Cultural Ambassador, member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Strong Women, Strong Girls and was recognized as a Spirit of Diversity award winner by the Center for Excellence in Diversity and Student Inclusion in recognition of her commitment to academic excellence and diversity and inclusion. In her role with BSU, Harris and the leadership team developed Duquesne’s first-ever Black Cultural Awareness Week in the fall of 2020.

Two staff members helped guide Harris along her Duquesne journey, Dr. Alydia Thomas, associate director for Student Development and Programming and Dr. Anthony Kane, Jr., director of Diversity and Inclusion. “I have not met any other staff members that care as much as they do and this is shown through their relationships with the students that they serve.”

After addressing the graduates and their families as this year’s undergraduate Commencement speaker, the next stop for Harris won’t be far away. She will be pursuing her master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling through Duquesne’s School of Education. Harris has also accepted a position as a graduate assistant with CETR.

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May 11, 2021