Honors College student Kennedy Carmichael views her Hertog Fellowship as another chance to learn and grow.
Carmichael has never looked back since graduating from Abilene Cooper and deciding to attend Texas Tech, where she is now a fourth-year student. As a result, door after door of opportunity has swung wide open for her.
“Being born and raised in Abilene, I kind of had this thought of wanting to get out of West Texas,” she said of her early thinking about attending college. “My senior year I had a debate tournament here and just fell in love with the campus. Then I took a tour, and I was like, ‘OK, I really like it here.'”
The real clincher was the Honors College because Carmichael could see herself not only fitting in but also blossoming as she discovered previously untapped potential.
“I did some research about the Honors College and really loved what I saw,” she said. “When I first saw the housing system, the pod style they used, I thought that was really cool and there will be other people like me there. That caught my eye, and the more I saw, the more I really liked it.”
The Honors College also has given her the chance to explore her intellectual curiosity and find out where she might be able to make the biggest difference in the world.
“I have the flexibility to pick what I really want to pursue,” she said. “I am very curious about so many things, so being able to look at different areas of academics is really intriguing to me.”
It's these types of students for whom the Honors College was designed, said Jill Hernandez, who has gotten to know Carmichael during her first year on campus as dean of the college.
“Kennedy began her journey believing her destiny included one specific goal,” she said, “and through the relationships she pursues and the academic ventures she takes on, her vision has broadened to include a global perspective and a heart for making a positive change in the world.”
Carmichael already has been a local change agent, serving as a mentor to students at Bayless Elementary School in Lubbock, where she has helped inspire young people to see possibilities. Likewise, she provided support for health care workers as she through offering free care for their children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, during her time at the Honors College she has become both an experience mentor and a house captain.
The latest chapter in Carmichael's still-unfolding story will take place in late July when she travels to Washington, D.C., after being named recipient of a Hertog Fellowship. She is one of 116 undergraduates and young professionals to be selected for the prestigious honor.
According to a news release from the organization, Carmichael is among a cohort of 20 War Studies Fellows who will spend two weeks studying theory, practice, organization and control of war and military forces with national security leaders and senior military officers.
“There is only one other student from Texas, and everyone else is from places like Cornell, Harvard and MIT,” she said. “I know it's going to be fantastic. I feel like walking away from this, I will have learned something, and I will have provided something to the discussions and hopefully made some connections with faculty speakers and other students. Those are things I'm looking forward to.”
The fellowship is a natural next step for Carmichael who has seen her career aspirations clarify during her time at Texas Tech. At first, she was leaning toward international law, but after taking a class led by Ambassador Tibor Nagy as well as planning and hosting her own panel discussion during the course, she had an epiphany.
“He led this course on diplomacy, and I got to meet all of these fantastic people,” she said. “That experience made up my mind that I wanted to go into foreign affairs, diplomacy, that sort of thing.”
It didn't hurt that Nagy noticed Carmichael seemed well-equipped for the unique demands of a diplomacy career during a fall 2022 event entitled “Seminar on U.S. Foreign Policy Priorities.” She was one of a dozen honor students to participate.
“I know Kennedy hopes to join the U.S. diplomatic service,” he said. “As a former career U.S. ambassador and assistant secretary of state, I cannot think of a better-suited candidate. U.S. diplomacy will be fortunate to have her.”
The seminar is one of several high-profile learning experiences Carmichael has enjoyed. Also in fall 2022, she served as a student lawyer on a Student Government Supreme Court case, which she won. In the spring of 2022, she earned a congressional internship and had a front-row seat for the inner workings of Congress.
With those experiences under her belt, Carmichael zeroed in on political science and international affairs. She is scheduled to graduate in May and is then plans to attend graduate school. After that, she wants to take the Foreign Service Officer Examination.
“Hopefully, I will get into that program and get shipped off to an embassy somewhere,” she said.
The Hertog Fellowship will give Carmichael the opportunity to be in the room with thought leaders who will provide her with insights and ideas she can build on once her career begins to take shape.
“I am really excited to hear different perspectives in war studies because I've been focusing on diplomacy and peacebuilding and those types of efforts,” she said. “Unfortunately, there has to be conflict sometimes for there to be peace. I think there will be a lot of focus on strategy, military tactics and the history of different conflicts.
“Then whenever I get to a diplomatic posting, I want to be able to walk in, and if it's an area of conflict, know I have a deeper understanding of the issues because of what I learned during the fellowship. I want to be able to contribute rather than just going, ‘OK, cool.”
Watching from the sidelines or being unprepared for a situation isn't how Carmichael rolls.
“I like to think that I am a go-getter for opportunities, even if they aren't totally in line with the track I'm on,” she said. “Something might be a little bit of a detour, but it will help me in the long run, and I have been pretty lucky getting opportunities.”
That feeling of right place, right time is directly attributable to the influence of the Honors College on her life.
“It has just been one amazing thing after another,” she said. “So many opportunities that if I had sat down at a computer and dug for weeks on end, I might have found them. But the fact that I have gotten so much support from the Honors College is incredible. I've made so many connections.
“I wouldn't have had these experiences if I didn't go to Texas Tech, get in the Honors College and meet Ambassador Nagy. Those opportunities existed because I was here, and it would be a waste if I didn't just reach out and grab them.”
From what those around Carmichael have seen so far, her best is yet to come.
“Selfishly, I hope she does become a U.S. diplomat,” Nagy said. “If I were still serving as assistant secretary of state or ambassador, I would be delighted to have her in my organization now. She would be the best possible representative to the world of what America is really about.”
Hernandez, who has watched Carmichael's Honors College roots grow and her influence on others spread, feels the same way.
“When we say at Texas Tech, ‘From Here, It's Possible™,' we can point to Kennedy Carmichael to lead the way.”