How political science major Kendra Wilson helped to create a new minor for UL Lafayette students
“My first semester of my freshman year I was in the first Arabic class at UL Lafayette – quite an honor, I might say – and I just fell in love with it immediately.”
- Political Science
- Lafayette, La.
Where I'm From
I’m from Lafayette La., where I grew up in a Ragin’ Cajun family.
Where I Am
I am studying international relations and helped created a new minor in Arabic at the University.
Where I'm Going
I am going to work in local government until I can be a translator or interpreter.
Kendra Wilson’s parents are both UL Lafayette graduates, making her a born-and-raised Ragin’ Cajun. She had many options of where to attend college, but UL Lafayette was the best choice for her.
“Growing up in Lafayette, I went to Ragin’ Cajun football games and softball games,” she said. “We were definitely a Ragin’ Cajun family.
“I looked at other schools since I have family in other parts of the country,” she said. “But when it came down to it, UL Lafayette had a program that I liked, I had friends here already, it was a great school with a great program and it just fit.”
Exploring Travel, Languages & Cultures
Kendra’s decision to major in political science with a concentration in international relations came from a love of traveling.
“I started traveling really young because my grandmother lives on the west coast,” she said. “So, we were flying on planes before I was old enough to walk.
“With the international relations program, I thought, ‘I like to travel, I like languages, this sounds awesome,’ so I signed up for it and it has been my home ever since,” she said.
“When I got to UL Lafayette, I heard about the Study Abroad program and I was hooked,” she said. “I went to London, Norway, and Scotland right after I finished my freshman year and that really sealed the deal for me.”
Studying New Languages
Kendra’s love of language is what drew her to two language minors that complement her major: Arabic Studies and Spanish.
“I’ve always had a love for languages,” she said. “My first semester of my freshman year I was in the first Arabic class at UL Lafayette – quite an honor, I might say – and I just fell in love with it immediately.
“I was taking Spanish alongside Arabic,” she said. “I knew some really great Spanish professors and they told me that I only needed three more classes to earn a minor. So, I was like ‘Why not?’ I like Spanish too, so I added it on.”
When she began taking Arabic classes, it wasn’t a minor yet. So, Kendra – with the help of her peers – changed that and brought a new field of study to the campus.
“I liked the professor, I loved the language, and my classmates were fantastic,” she said. “As we went through the levels together, we decided we wanted this as a minor, so me and a few classmates put together a petition and a lot of work with our professor to convince the language department to continue this as a minor.”
A minor isn’t the only thing she helped bring to UL Lafayette. To accompany the minor, Kendra helped start two student organizations: the Arabic Culture Club and the Model Arab League.
“For the Arabic Culture Club, we meet on Wednesday nights and work on Arabic homework and just work on speaking basic conversations so that people in the Arabic program – and people not in the Arabic program – would get exposure to the language and have the experience of speaking it outside of a normal classroom setting,” she said.
“We had a big event called Arabic Night where we had people come in and teach us how to do a traditional dance,” she said. “We had some people come do henna, and all the food was supplied by Zeus on campus. We had a really fun night and a bigger turnout than expected. I think everyone had a good time; we’ll just need a bigger room for next time.
“I was also a founding member of the Model Arab league,” she said. “It’s a little like Model UN (United Nations). We go to conferences and we go to competitions, but instead of representing any country, you represent one of the 22 countries in the Arab region.
“This year, we actually got approval to make it a class,” she said. “So now it counts for course credit and towards your Arabic studies minor. It’s a very big thing and we are very proud of that.”
A New Interest in Government
Kendra’s political science classes have shown her that a career in government may be in her future.
“After I graduate, I’d really like to get a job working in government, especially local government,” she said. “Over the past year or two, I’ve fallen in love with the process.
“I would like to do something where I could use my languages,” she said. “I would like to eventually become a translator or interpreter – I know it’s going to take me a lot of time to get there – so right now, my plan is to work in our local government until I figure out which graduate program I’d like to go to. Then hopefully I’ll move onto national government or even working as a translator overseas.”
One class in particular piqued Kendra’s interest in government work.
“I took Dr. Pearson Cross’s State and Local Government class (POLS 317) last semester and it was phenomenal,” she said. “I learned so much about how our government works and how it works in comparison to other state governments, and I liked it way more than I thought I would.”
Kendra’s undergraduate thesis with the University Honors Program reflects these interests as well.
“I’m doing my thesis on the evolution of American socialism,” she said. “I got the idea when I was in a philosophy class and we were talking about socialism.
“It’s been around for forever, but right now it’s really prevalent especially considering we had a presidential candidate that labels himself as a democratic socialist,” she said. “And of course, you have people in Congress such as the famous AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) who is also a democratic socialist.
“I’m writing my thesis because I think it’s important to know what a democratic socialist is, how socialism evolved from the very beginnings of history and in America, why it’s such an appealing concept to so many people, and if it’s even a feasible option for America,” she said.
Kendra thanks her professors for helping her form her own opinions.
“I think we have some of the best professors,” she said. “They’re able to teach without having very strong biases and they try to teach everything from all sides so that you can make your own opinions and get the full story before jumping to one side or the other.
“I think they teach the classes in a way that really gears it toward the students where it’s best for them to understand,” she said. “They’re not afraid to touch the sticky subjects — like writing a thesis on socialism — and they’re willing to help with those kinds of projects that you bring to them.”
Her experiences on campus helped her break out of her shell.
“Before I started college, I was very, very shy and I hated public speaking,” she said. “I feel like part of my experience at UL Lafayette of becoming president of an organization and having to give presentations is what made me much more comfortable speaking to people.
“Just having the ability to express my ideas clearly and have the experience of presenting things to people and collaborating with them is probably my strongest skill that I’ve gained,” she said.
Campus culture exceeded her expectations, too.
“It sounds bad to say it, but being in Louisiana, I didn’t really expect to meet people from all over,” she said. “But we have such a diverse population and I’ve met all these amazing people from all these places. My boyfriend’s roommate is from Oman so sometimes we just speak Arabic to each other and that’s an incredible thing.
“And we have such strong traditions like the pardoning of the crawfish – I cannot tell you another school that has anything like that,” she said. “I really enjoy having that cultural identity as part of my university.”