Courtney Kimmel, an MA/Ph.D. student from Fort Worth, took the reins as Graduate Student Senate president in August.
Three months after earning BA degrees in history and political science from Texas Tech in May 2018, Courtney began working on her MA in history at TCU. Though the pandemic put a damper on her research plans, she expects to complete that degree in December. Next up: working on her Ph.D. in American history and studying the roots of “Reform Republicans” or “Lily-Whites” — one of the factions within the Texas Republican Party in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
We asked Courtney about her GSS accomplishments, presidential goals, future plans and favorite things. (Spoiler alert: her faculty mentors are truly inspiring.)
What brought you to TCU?
My mom played soccer here under Coach David Rubinson and graduated in 1992 from the College of Education. My childhood home that my parents still live in is a mile or so from the west part of campus. So you could say that I was a Horned Frog from birth. When applying for graduate programs, TCU’s fully-funded program enticed me the most. I knew that graduate school was going to be difficult and I didn’t want to be greeted by piles of student loans once I graduated. Additionally, I’ve heard stories of TCU’s dedication to its students all of my life.
How did you get involved with the Graduate Student Senate?
Someone nominated me for the position of historian in the spring of 2019. I’ve always desired to be on the involved end of things. The Graduate Student Senate seemed like the ideal place for me to become involved.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
During my first year serving on GSS, the organization was only made up of five members (the executive board). It was evident to us that five grad students couldn’t get the job done that the graduate student population deserved. We decided to expand the structure of GSS to five executive members and 27 senators. Each college is represented proportionally based on their graduate student enrollment numbers. This structural transition hasn’t been effortless; it takes a lot of discussion, analysis, research and compromise to expand such an organization in the most effective manner. Although we’re still working out kinks and wrinkles, we’ve created a sustainable student organization that represents over one-third of TCU’s student population.
Why did you want to run for president?
As the historian for the 2019-2020 organization, I witnessed the inefficiencies of such a small organizational structure and helped lay out the initial structural changes. I felt like I needed to “see this thing through,” and who better to lead the organization during such a transitional time than someone who helped construct the expansion plan in the first place? Additionally, I feel like my unique experience at TCU as both an MA student and now a Ph.D. student can benefit the graduate students that I’ve been elected to represent.
What are your primary goals as president?
As president, I want to help as many graduate students reach the level of fulfillment, appreciation and passion for TCU as I have during my first two years here as an MA student. I want to hear what’s keeping them from fully enjoying their graduate student experience, and then find and implement the solutions to those problems. Specifically, I am focusing on mental health issues, events and solutions during this first semester. Last year, the GSS provided a survey for grad students and their overall experiences here at TCU. Second to parking complaints, mental health issues came in first on the list of graduate student concerns. It’s a pervasive issue that affects so many of us — grad students and beyond. I’m advocating for a counselor within the TCU Counseling Center that is available specifically for graduate students. Oftentimes, we have concerns that differ from the general undergraduate population. Having a counselor who is trained and tailored to grad students would allow many of us to get the help that we need from one of TCU’s biggest available resources. Additionally, I created a Mental Health & Wellness Committee within the GSS structure. This committee will work specifically on mental health issues, events and resources. The hope is to provide the proper amount of attention to such an incredibly prevalent issue in 2020.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be and how do you plan to overcome it?
Zoom meetings. 100%. This year’s GSS has yet to meet in person, so I feel less connected to my fellow GSS members than I anticipated. All of our events aimed at graduate students must be completely virtual, at least for this semester, if not longer. Finding ways to revitalize the spirit of community and inclusiveness is challenging enough for graduate students on most campuses; the current pandemic has exacerbated this challenge. By taking advantage of the low cost (aka free) of organizing and hosting virtual presentations, meetings and discussions, this year’s GSS plans on scheduling a large number of programs that range far and wide on topic, presenter, audience, etc. We expect that this large variety of programs will interest most, if not all, of the graduate students. Even if a student only attends one all semester, we’ve still provided a service/resource for the community that we’re responsible to represent.
What are your goals after graduation?
Ideally, I plan to teach American history at the college level, preferably at a four-year institution.
What do you love most about being a Horned Frog?
There are so many things to love about being a Horned Frog. I suppose I’m most grateful for the friends and mentors that I’ve come across in only two years. The relationships between many of my professors and other academic professionals at TCU have been most rewarding. I’m so blessed to have true friendships with many of them. I also treasure the academic and life lessons that all of them share with me. If I’m ever able to become even half as inspiring to another student as they have been to me, I’ll know that I made the right career choice.
More about Courtney
Go-to morning beverage: Diet Coke. Always a Diet Coke.
A food you wish was healthy: Mama’s Pizza
Favorite spot on campus: That’s a tie between under the large magnolia tree outside Reed Hall and the history graduate student office in Reed 406.
Favorite hangout off campus: Rogers Roundhouse
Favorite movie: Pride and Prejudice (the Keira Knightley one, 2005)
Last show you binge watched: Money Heist
Hobbies: Working part time as the office manager at my uncle’s landscape architecture business; taking my dog, Riggs, wherever I go; finding new music on Spotify; watching football and hanging out with my cousins and three younger siblings who live in Fort Worth.
Thing you’ve missed most during the pandemic: Happy hours at Buffalo Bros with my friends from the history department and being able to see everyone on campus.
First place you want to visit post-pandemic: Peru. I wrote a research paper on two 16th century Peruvian communities last year. I’d like to visit these areas and experience them in person, rather than through dusty old books and hand-drawn maps.