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USC Graduate School honors two-time Trojan with Hunt Award

by Lauren Evashenk
Kenisha Strong works as a graduate assistant for the USC School of Social Work and an English instructor for the Office of International Services. (Photo/Nathan Carter)
Kenisha Strong works as a graduate assistant for the USC School of Social Work and an English instructor for the Office of International Services. (Photo/Nathan Carter)

Kenisha Strong ’09 remembers the first time she visited the USC campus.

“My grandmother rounded up all her grandchildren, drove us an hour to the USC campus and proudly gave us a tour of her alma mater,” Strong recounted. “I remember how happy, excited and proud she was, and I vowed then that I would also become a Trojan.”

Strong made good on her promise when she earned her bachelor’s from USC with a double major in anthropology and communications in 2009. She is now in her first year as a master’s student in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs (PASA) at the USC Rossier School of Education.

It’s not surprising that Strong will be a two-time USC alumna — Trojan blood runs in the family. Besides her grandmother, who received a master’s degree in psychology in 1984, Strong’s grandfather earned his PhD in education in the 1970s.

In honor of her achievements and dedication to USC, the USC Graduate School recognized Strong with the 2013 Rockwell Dennis Hunt Scholastic Award. Each year, the award is given to one graduate student who also completed his or her bachelor’s degree at USC. The award is given in honor of Dean Hunt, who in 1920 became dean of the USC Graduate School, a position he held until his retirement in 1945.

In addition to pursuing two degrees at USC, Strong has been a vibrant presence in the USC community — athletically, academically and professionally. During all four years of her undergraduate career, Strong was a pole vaulter on the USC track team, and ultimately earned a place among the top 10 women pole vaulters in USC history. She accomplished this all while maintaining top marks in her coursework: Strong earned the scholar-athlete recognition during her junior and senior seasons.

Strong also got involved with AngeLingo, an undergraduate online writer’s magazine sponsored by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. She became an editor for the magazine during her senior year and also worked on a blog connected with the publication.

Taking advantage of the many opportunities USC had to offer, Strong studied abroad for a semester in Brisbane, Australia, in 2007, where she became interested in learning about other cultures. The experience influenced not only her anthropology major, but also her future career trajectory.

Following commencement in 2009, Strong moved to Stockholm, where she began teaching English-language courses to children between the ages of 5 and 14. It was during this time that her interest in education as a profession really took hold.

After nearly a year in Stockholm, Strong returned to California, where she taught English as a second language to adult learners at the University of Laverne. Now, as a graduate student at USC Rossier, Strong is an English instructor in the Office of International Services’ English Language Program, which helps the families of international students at USC transition into their new environment.

Strong has continued to work as an instructor of English as a second language because of the tangible difference it makes in people’s lives, and, in joining USC Rossier’s PASA program, she is preparing herself to make the greatest impact possible in the lives of students.

“I know the transformative power of education,” Strong said. “I hope to work in a community college environment where I can aid students with their transition into a university, opening doors for them that they may have never considered themselves.”

The USC Graduate School will present Strong with the Hunt Award at the Academic Honors Convocation in April. Strong’s family, including both of her Trojan grandparents, plan to attend the ceremony.

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