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Pre-med student encourages others to be involved beyond the classroom

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

By Diamond Walker

Kennedy Campbell's outstanding academic achievements are just a piece of her puzzle here at the University of Illinois. Her involvement and leadership around Champaign-Urbana have helped pave an easier path for minority students in the future. Campbell has created and obtained leadership positions in various medical and non-profit organizations. Hard work and dedication have received her a spot on this year's homecoming court. She will be receiving a B.S in interdisciplinary health science and a concentration in health diversity in May. She is on a pre-med track and plans to get her masters in public health administration. Campbell plans to return home to Chicago after graduation and is eager to continue making an impact in her hometown. I spoke with Campbell on Friday, Oct. 22, 2022, about her journey here at the University of Illinois.

This Segment has been edited for length and clarity. -

Interviewer: If you could change anything about your undergraduate experience what would it be?

Campbell: “ I wish the university were more diverse. Project 500 was designed to increase retention in the late 1960s. When looking at recent demographics of the university, our numbers keep falling. As a student representative of the university, the main question people ask is what the experience is like for students of color. I love the university, although I wish there were more incentives for outreach to underrepresented students. The misconception is that college students from Chicago are dumped here. We need to try harder to educate people about our resources. I also wish there was more funding for cultural housing and the office of student minority affairs.”

Interviewer: What are the best and worst moments of your college experience?

Campbell: When we did the college tour production on Amazon Prime (Season one, episode five.) Im the first in my family to graduate college and the first to be on television. It was a great experience. I learned what it meant to be an Illini and to have school spirit. During COVID-19 students couldn’t go in person to college visits, so representation matters. I can’t think of any bad memories, so I guess that’s a good reflection point.”

Interviewer: What advice would you give to students who want to be on homecoming court their senior year?

Campbell: “I believe a good rule of thumb is to support and respect the community you are living in. It was a rough transition from moving to the city to a small community. I have treated Champaign the same way I treat Chicago. I volunteer everywhere I can. It’s important to do work without expecting anything back. You should also apply early and take advantage of leadership opportunities, you have to get out of being shy. Go to office hours and meet with your professors, go to club meetings and talk with executive members. Anything to get yourself out of your comfort zone will help you in the long run. I signed myself up for as many activities as I could. Anytime there is an opportunity to speak out about injustice, advocacy, or even myself and my experiences I take full advantage. The main reason why I got so many opportunities is by putting myself out there by speaking up and being a good student representative. Always show yourself in the best positive light.”

Interviewer: What are the biggest challenges you face as a minority woman in leadership?

Campbell: “I battle with imposter syndrome. As a first-generation student, there are moments when you do not feel like you belong, but you have to get over that. People might doubt you; you might even be doubting yourself. I also feel like people have things to say about if you deserve the position. It is important to recognize that people will always second guess you and question if you deserve to be in that space doing that position. It’s okay to mute them and drown out the noise, you are there for a purpose, and you are good enough.”

Interviewer: Do you believe Illinois has prepared you to go to the next level in your career?

Campbell: “This University has great cultural competency. iHelp is unique to the university and gives me a great curriculum to understand what the disparities are in the healthcare system. Going into the healthcare field the university has prepared me to be able to be aware of cultural issues within healthcare, social determinants of health and health disparities. The pre-med curriculum is pretty rigorous as well. This is a great university for students going into healthcare and pre-med. You should stay determined.”

Interviewer: If you could go back to freshman year what advice would you give yourself?

Campbell: " I would be more knowledgeable and take advantage of all the resources. Seek out information about Mckinley's health and the counseling center. Get involved too! I hear from too many upper-classmen wishing they would have gotten more out of their college experience, take advantage now. U of I college experience is one of the best, and the school pride is crazy. Make sure you go to office hours and OMSA free tutoring. Be confident in yourself and never give up on your dreams. Many people consider dropping out after a challenge. If you wanted to be a doctor since you were 6-years-old what changed in a month? Students should learn to stick with it and get a mentor. You are not alone. There are over 50 thousand people on this campus. Nobody should be saying they don't have friends or a place where they feel like they belong. There are over 800 clubs, and you belong somewhere, so take the incentives to try.”

Interviewer: if you had the chance to go back, would you still choose to attend the University of Illinois?

Campbell: “Yes, I would choose the university of Illinois every time, it is unmatched. I feel like you can make a real difference by coming here and impacting the community. I'd never interacted with so many people until I came here, making new connections. It is interesting speaking with students from different walks of life and learning about their experiences. I learn something new every day. I also love the faculty. They really care and are very involved inside the community.”

Campbell founded many organizations, including the Pilsen Promise Project, the Pre-health Latino Society UIUC Chapter of the Latino Medical Association, and Mentors in Medicine. She is involved with various organizations, including the counseling center, Mckinley health center, University Housing, Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center, Office of Minority Student Affairs and the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students UIUC Chapter.

Campbell has become an amazing student representative and advocate. We commend you on your hard work and dedication to making the University of Illinois more inclusive and welcoming for students of color.

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