Florida State University is lucky to have such a passionate woman for their Graduate Assistant for the Center for Leadership and Social Change. Our #WCW, Kristen Lemaster inspires students to pursue their dreams and always fight against injustice.
1. What's your story? What makes you unique?
I'm a twenty-something girl who believes in the power of ice cream, Taylor Swift, being barefoot, sisterhood, and language. That last part, language, has been my heart and soul for as long as I can remember, and it's evolved from a habit of reading to an admiration of Spanish to an insatiable desire to write. It took me a long time to identify as a writer, because so much of storytelling necessitates rawness and transparency, but I know it's a part of me that will never go away. I like David Foster Wallace's thoughts on the difficulty of language: "How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.” But the reality is that they are never just words; they can teach us empathy, they can validate our feelings, and every day they can serve others in small, significant ways. That's why my biggest ambition is to write and publish young-adult novels.
2. What motivates you?
Vulnerability and change! The best part is that I wouldn't be able to call those my motivating factors if not for my time at the University of Georgia. I officially studied English, history, and Spanish, but what I also learned was what it means to "live your truth," as a fantastic mentor and adviser by the name of T.W. would say, and how having faith in somebody can lead to the most fulfilling romantic relationship of your life. I'll always be introverted, but UGA showed me how to be inspired by taking chances and never underestimating new experiences, people, or myself.
3. Who is a hero of yours?
I've been really digging Mindy Kaling lately, as in I tore through The Mindy Project in a matter of weeks, made the theme song my ringtone, and happy-danced when Hulu picked the show up for the next season. Mindy seems like the most down-to-earth celebrity in today's world - somebody whose "brand" is simply authenticity mixed with optimism, kindness, and humor. I can only imagine the huge impact she's having on young girls everywhere by being a woman who owns both her sexuality and her intelligence, recognizes her inherent beauty, and can laugh at herself while never settling for any less than she deserves.
4. What's your future plan? Your goals?
Professionally, I'm working on my Masters of Higher Education Student Affairs at Florida State University with the most incredible cohort and an amazing assistant-ship in FSU's Center for Leadership and Social Change. My plan after graduation is to continue challenging and supporting students' leadership development in whatever capacity possible, so I'm looking forward to holding a position at a public university where we might educate and empower sorority women, or facilitate community dialogue and discussion around social justice issues, or just help students see that college is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - and privilege - to become who they really are.
Personally, I'm working "to become, not to acquire," in the words of Elbert Hubbard. I'm training for my first 5k run, reading 100 books a year, and learning how to keep up long distance relationships, since now my hometown and college friends are all over the world doing their super cool things. I also really want to continue making travel a priority, because my study abroad experience in Buenos Aires was too perfect for words. I'm always happy to see firsthand the ways in which we're all connected across the globe.
5. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
I'd share the wise words of my friend and mentor Katie, who told me once that it's important to have friends in every stage of life: a good friend where you want to be (and wants to help you get there), a good friend where you are (and understands what you're going through), and a good friend where you've been (and could benefit from hearing about the path you took). It's a way to continue the cycle of giving back, and it makes you prioritize and seek out meaningful relationships in which everyone involved can grow, reflect, and celebrate both the tiny and the big life moments.
6. What is something you feel strongly about (a cause, belief, etc.)?
Literacy, inter-sectional feminism, and emotional intelligence are more and more important to me, and I'm constantly learning how to be a better advocate and ally. Twitter is a brilliant social media platform for that, since amplifying others' voices can be as simple as retweeting them, and the character limit helps ensure that core information gets communicated clearly.
On another note, I'm really drawn to astrology. It's easy and reassuring for me to find beauty in the idea that there's a part of the cosmos in each of us, and we're connected within the universe in meaningful ways that can influence how we interact with one another. I can't defend daily horoscopes or pretend that zodiac signs completely define us, but I love being a Libra and the self-reflection that astrology asks of us; it's fun to figure out how that perspective can help me make more sense of this life, much like people use the MBTI personalities or other leadership assessments to gain insight into themselves.
7. What's one of the coolest things you've ever done?
The summer before my first year at UGA, I interned with Playmaking for Girls, a theater program for girls in juvenile detention centers and group homes. It was essentially an assistant stage manager position - assembling script-books, noting stage directions, operating sound at the final performance, things like that - but the girls were so funny and smart and talented. They wrote and performed short plays with just the right emotional touch to cover heavy subjects like death in the family, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, and the highs and lows of a first love. On any given day, I wasn't sure what I would be walking into, but each afternoon we ended with girls expressing their gratitude even for the the toughest parts of the day and reaffirming that what they were doing was significant. I still get all choked up when I hear India Arie's "I Choose," the song that introduced and concluded each performance. "Life is gonna do what it do, and every day I have the opportunity to choose."