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Double Major Grad Works Double Time for Social Change

Photo of McKenna Revel

McKenna Revel, '17, loved the academic freedom of being able to study multiple majors during her time at Eastern Kentucky University. Now, she’s living out her passions as both a legal assistant in Lexington and executive director of the Homeless Coalition in Montgomery County.

When she started searching for colleges that would be best suited for double majoring without restrictions during the first two years of school, EKU became her top choice. Revel began as a political science major. She knew she wanted to add another major but didn’t know what field. 

“I actually saw a news story in the Eastern Progress—it was about the Ferguson protests,” Revel said. “There was a note in that story that they wanted to launch a new program for social justice studies, but that no one had signed up for it yet. They weren't sure if the major was going to go through or not. I just thought, ‘That's it—that's the piece that I'm missing.’”

After reading the article, she went to speak with Dr. Preston Elrod, now-retired professor of justice studies, about potentially adding social justice as her second major. Soon after, she became the first student in the program, switching political science to her secondary major. 

While navigating her course load as the first EKU student to major in social justice, professors helped her find an internship with a criminal defense investigator at a public defender’s office. Revel fell in love with the closely intertwined fields of criminal and social justice. Upon graduation, she was offered a full-time position.

Revel did pretrial work for two-and-a-half years in Madison, Clark and Jackson counties before being promoted and having the opportunity to work with the Kentucky Innocence Project, a chapter of the National Innocence Project. Revel traveled across Kentucky, taking cases in every county to advocate for incarcerated people with rightful claims of innocence.  

“We had some really incredible and really intense, unique cases and cases that were some of the only ones housed within a public defender's department. It was very cool to get that joint experience,” Revel said. 

Once the pandemic hit, Revel decided to connect back to her social justice roots and take a step back from defense work so she could transition to working at the federal level, where she currently works as a legal assistant at a federal office in Lexington. Around the same time, Revel was also hired part-time as the executive director of the Homeless Coalition in Montgomery County. 

“The reason I went to school and the reason I studied what I studied was to be of service. The homeless coalition was a perfect opportunity to do that,” Revel said. 

A group of concerned citizens in Montgomery County realized the need for a homeless coalition to help serve the needs of the public, and Revel has built the program from the ground up since starting her position in September 2022. 

She said, “We're up and running; we're open to the public for inclement weather on nights that are freezing. It’s been really wonderful to see the impact so far. There's still a long way to go and I’m excited to see how we will look in a year's time.”

As a true EKU Colonel dedicated to serving her community, Revel wanted to share the opportunity for others to volunteer with the homeless coalition. She encourages those interested in helping to visit their Facebook page @MontgomeryCOHELP.

“McKenna was our first graduate in social justice studies. She set the bar incredibly high for all who followed,” said Dr. Judah Schept, professor and graduate program coordinator for EKU’s School of Justice Studies. “Her in-class work, which elevated class discussions along with writing beautiful analyses and reflections, matched an outward commitment to service and social change, evidenced by all of the incredible advocacy and organizing work she has done since.” 

EKU's renowned School of Justice Studies offers a comprehensive education in fields such as criminal justice and police studies with a foundation in concerns for social justice. Learn more about EKU’s School of Justice Studies.

Published on February 06, 2023

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