Murley uses graduate degree to make impact in Memphis

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For December 2018 graduate Kaci Murley, education is a privilege worth pursuing. Before she earned her Master of Arts degree in leadership and public service, Murley spent nearly a decade working across the state with education-related nonprofit organizations such as tnAchieves and Complete Tennessee.

Murley_350After working in an environment that had a strong emphasis on the importance of school, she decided it was time to continue her own education.

“I had the pleasure of working in a professional capacity with Dr. Steve Joiner who first introduced me to the College of Leadership & Public Service program and encouraged me to apply,” said Murley. “I felt called to Lipscomb because of the campus culture that was similar to my undergraduate experience at Christian Brothers University -- an environment that sparked my love for higher education in the first place: a faith-based, liberal arts institution committed to academic excellence and serving the community at large.”

Highlights of Murley’s time at Lipscomb include class trips taken to Washington, D.C. and Detroit, Michigan, experiences that expanded her understanding of leadership and policy-making, and time spent both in and outside the classroom with her classmates and professors.

Particularly influential professors for her were Dr. Kristine LaLonde and Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry. Murley said LaLonde challenged her understanding of policymaking and related real-life situations to government and leadership scenarios. LaLonde encouraged her students to be “optimistically skeptical,” never satisfied with policies or initiatives until after some deep digging for facts.

Murley also felt her life was greatly influenced by President Lowry’s negotiation and dispute resolution course where he taught to always, “Go below the line.” The phrase “references the interests and motivations of negotiating parties instead of the facts and evidence,” said Murley. “By following this advice, we are able to better understand the true driving forces behind conflicts and often find more powerful and innovative ways to solve them.”

Murley and her sister were the first in their immediate family to graduate college, but through her work with thousands of other first-generation students across Tennessee, she recognizes how blessed she was to have parents who always provided encouragement and support.

“What makes being a first-generation student both so challenging and so special is this: you don’t know what you don’t know,” said Murley. “So on one hand, not knowing the rules or the answers or even the right questions to ask can make college a really tough world to navigate. But on the other hand, you are the first one in your family to carve that path, so in many ways you get to set your own expectations and reach goals on your own terms. Challenging, but so special.”

Murley recently accepted a new job in her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee as director of programs at Leadership Memphis.

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