Leading with a mission

Kennedy White in an Army uniform

Kennedy White’s advice to Iowa State students is simple:  Don’t hold back.

“I did that a lot in my life. I held back and was really quiet, but if you just do it, nine times out of 10, you’ll have way more fun and the opportunity to do something greater,” White said.

For White (’22 criminal justice), doing something great in life involves helping others. That mindset is what led her to pursue a degree in criminal justice.

“I got into criminal justice because of the stereotypical watching of detective shows, but I also wanted to find a way to help people, too,” White said. “Criminal justice has always been something I’ve been interested in, plus my dad was a firefighter. I just want to help people in any way I can.”

White, who grew up among the rolling hills of northeast Iowa in the small community of West Union, already knows a thing or two about doing great things. In addition to being a criminal justice major with a minor in military science, she is also a member of the Iowa Army National Guard and Iowa State’s Army ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps).

White enlisted in the Iowa National Guard after she graduated from high school. As a part-time enlisted service member, she abides by the guard’s requirements to attend drill one weekend each month and for a two-week stint each summer. She is also a contracted member of Army ROTC, and she will attend the Basic Officer Leaders Course (BOLC) following graduation from Iowa State next spring. It’s a lot to juggle, but White is gaining invaluable leadership experience that will position her well for a future criminal justice career.

“I’ve seen what different leaders look like in the guard. I can take aspects of what I’ve liked and what I haven’t liked, and when I graduate I can take those values and apply them to how I want to lead,” she said.

Servant leadership

ROTC has provided White with multiple opportunities to flex her leadership skills. Last year, she was a squad leader in charge of eight other cadets, and currently she is a platoon leader in charge of three squads, for a total of about 40 people.

“These leadership roles have helped me to develop a lot because I used to be very shy and that’s why they made me a squad leader and a platoon leader, so I could develop more,” White said. “It’s definitely been a good steppingstone for me because it has helped me to develop and get ready for a career. It’s been hard, but it’s worth it.”

Over the summer, White took her leadership prowess to the next level by attending the Army’s Cadet Troop Leader Training (CTLT) camp at a United States Army Garrison (USAG) base in Baumholder, Germany. Getting into an advanced camp like CTLT is a competitive, nationwide process reserved for a small number of elite Army ROTC cadets. White was one of five Iowa State cadets selected to attend, and the only one tapped to train in Germany.

At CTLT, White shadowed a second lieutenant and an adjutant general in the human resources company, a military assignment she hopes to continue with the Iowa National Guard following graduation.

“I’ve been doing human resources from the beginning with the guard. I want to help people, but I don’t want to be on the front lines,” she said.

Just before she returned home from CTLT in August, White played a small role in history as the United States ended the 20-year Afghanistan War.

“I got to participate in the Ramstein Air Base mission, which was evacuating Afghans from Afghanistan,” White said. “I didn’t get to experience too much with it, but I saw where it was happening and I got to help set it up.”

Future plans

When White graduates from Iowa State this spring, she will become a second lieutenant in the Iowa National Guard. She will be assigned to a human resources branch while also working a full-time job. That’s when she intends to pursue a career related to her criminal justice major, perhaps as a probation officer. But no matter where she lands, White knows her military experience will set her up for success.

“I think the military sets you apart. If you look on resumes, that’s one of the first things employers will notice because they know that you’re loyal, on time and professional,” White said. “So, I think the military has set me up for any career, but specifically for criminal justice. I’ll know how to handle people.”