Kassandra Le-Huynh (Class of 2022) is one of 20 students – from a field of over 800 applicants — selected as a Key into Public Service Scholar by The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society. The award recognizes students who have demonstrated interest in working in the public sector and possess a strong academic record in the arts, humanities, mathematics, natural sciences and social sciences.
As a Key into Public Service Scholar, Le-Huynh will receive a $5,000 scholarship and take part with her fellow recipients in a virtual convening in late June focusing on training, mentoring and reflection on pathways into active citizenship. Inspired by many Phi Beta Kappa members who have shaped the course of the United States through local, state and federal service, the award highlights specific pathways for liberal arts and graduates seeking public sector careers.
“The Society selected these exemplary students for their intellectual curiosity; breadth and depth across liberal arts and sciences coursework; positive contributions on and off campus through academic research, internships, and community work; and demonstrated commitment to serve the common good,” Phi Beta Kappa Secretary Frederick M. Lawrence said. “As the country tackles concurrent health, economic, and social crises, the Society applauds the 2021 Service Scholars for their pursuit of arts and sciences excellence in service of the greater good.”
Setting the stage for a career in public service
Le-Huynh is double majoring in French and economics at The University of Tulsa, with minors in biology and political science. She is the cofounder and current chief of staff of TU’s Vietnamese American Student Association, treasurer of TEDxUTulsa, student representative for the College of Arts and Sciences’ executive committee and a researcher in the Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge (TURC).
“This award means a lot to me, especially because I consider myself an interdisciplinary student,” Le-Huynh said. “I have had aspirations to work in public service for the longest time, so being considered someone who has the potential to achieve these goals has been unbelievable.”
During her final year at TU, Le-Huynh plans to finish her Honors Plan, which focuses on how people understand acts of violence committed by women throughout time and what are deemed to be acceptable versus unacceptable acts of violence. “For example,” Le-Huynh remarked, “how do we understand Artemisia Gentileschi’s painting Judith Slaying Holofernes as a form of ‘acceptable’ violence today – and why? I think it will be a fascinating way to understand the intersection of gender roles and the legal field.”
Le-Huynh will also spend her senior year completing her TURC project on Oklahoma’s sentencing disparities at the federal and state levels. She envisions developing a conference paper out of this work.
“I am so proud of Kassie,” said Matthew Hendricks, Le-Huynh’s TURC mentor. “Many students have the talent to achieve similar success, but Kassie possesses a rare drive and self-motivation that is inspiring. She will be a great success after she graduates from TU, and I will be rooting her on.”
Contemplating life after TU, Le-Huynh has her sights set on completing a dual juris doctor/master of public policy program in order to prepare herself for a career in public service. In preparation for this next step, for past two years Le-Huynh has served as an intern with the Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office, noting that “this work has been integral to how I understand the legal system today and shaped how I want to interact with the legal field in my future career.” Le-Huynh’s long-term goal is “to continue addressing sentencing disparities and other inequalities in the criminal justice system.”
Develop your skills in scholarship and public life by getting involved in the Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge!