Kendall Clark Combines Scholarship with Community-Building

Kendall Clark
May 8, 2019

Kendall Clark, a double major in Public Administration and Public Service and Sociology, has achieved an impressive record of scholarship as an undergraduate, while simultaneously working to build community on and beyond the St. John’s University Queens campus.

Kendall spent her summer 2018 working with Dr. Marion Orr, Frederick Lippitt Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Political Science and Urban Studies at Brown University. Kendall assisted Dr. Orr with his research into the “two Savannahs,” and how race and political economy have shaped the growth of Savannah, GA as a tourist city. Kendall collected census data from Savannah in the 1950s to identify how race, population shifts, and changes in income and home ownership point to changes in the city’s distribution of resources by race. She also tracked flight data from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport to determine when Savannah increased in popularity as a tourist destination.

Kendall became connected to this research opportunity through The Leadership Alliance, which provides research and networking experiences to a diverse group of young scholars, along with preparation for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). At Kendall’s invitation, Dr. Medeva Ghee, Executive Director of The Leadership Alliance, will visit the St. John’s Queens campus during the fall 2018 semester.

“Spending the summer at Brown through The Leadership Alliance broadened my horizons,” said Kendall. “The amount of resources at my disposal was unmatched.”

Currently, Kendall is employed part-time at the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library in the Department of Visitor Services, where she greets visitors to the museum. Previously, Kendall worked at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “Museums are one of my favorite places,” she said. “They serve as an intersecting point as both cultural institutions and academic centers. Museums are equalizers in a society where access to education is extremely inequitable, which is why I love dedicating my time to serving these institutions.”

Kendall is applying to doctoral programs in social policy to pursue her interest in how race and ethnicity interact with politics. She is also committed to transforming academia into a more inclusive field. “I am constantly thinking about what it means to fight for diversity in academia,” she said. “It is a constant battle to create a more diverse space, but worth it in the end. The academy should be a place for everyone to expand their knowledge.”

At St. John’s, Kendall is a McNair Scholar, the St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Senior Representative, and the President of the Black Student Union, which she co-founded in 2017 with the aim of connecting the campus to the surrounding community. Under her leadership, the group has organized a supply drive for nearby Redwood Middle School, coordinated with Autism Friendly Spaces to offer Broadway show outings that accommodate children with autism, and volunteered with Jumpstart. “This is my community,” said Kendall, “And my grandmother, an immigrant from Bermuda, taught me that I should always be grateful, remember where I came from, give back to those who don’t have as much as I do, build connections, and be part of the community.”

Originally from Fort Washington, MD, Kendall’s community spirit led her to be involved with Girl Scouts of the USA and the head of the youth choir at her church in high school. During her sophomore year, Kendall met a representative from St. John’s during a college fair and knew immediately that she wanted to attend. “I wanted to continue my Christian education in New York, and to either find my niche or create my own,” she said.

Despite benefiting from the Student Support Services resources on campus, Kendall experienced difficulties during her first year at St. John’s after the death of her grandmother. She found solace, however, in her Fundamentals of Public Speaking course, taught by Associate Professor John B. Greg, Ph.D. “Dr. Greg gave us space to talk about ourselves and our past,” said Kendall. “For one assignment that required us to give a demonstration, I made Maryland-style popcorn for the class; that was one of the first times I felt at home at St. John’s. Another assignment was to praise someone, which was a turning point for me. I chose my grandmother. Through that speech I was able to reflect on and recognize that everything I do from this point is in her honor, and after that my grades never dropped below an A. It was a complete turn-around for me.”

While in her sophomore year, Kendall also completed an internship at State Senator Leroy Comrie’s office in St. Albans, NY. In that role, she listened to concerns from members of the community and directed them to available resources, represented the Senator’s office at talks about immigration, and attended “Know Your Rights” workshops. The internship solidified her goal of combining scholarship with community activism. For her doctoral research, Kendall aims to study her hometown of Washington, D.C. and how the mayoral candidacy of Marion Barry affected perceptions of blackness in that area in the 1990s. “We need more research on Washington, D.C. at the local, community level. It’s up to people my age to learn about and give back to our communities before it’s too late.”