Q&A with Criminal Justice Major Kierra Keyes

Feb. 15, 2022

Kierra Keyes, a senior from Sierra Vista, Ariz., is majoring in criminal justice in the School of Government and Public Policy, or SGPP, with a minor in family studies and human development. After graduation, Kierra would like to become a marriage and family therapist and hopes to provide better sex education to youth and women of color. In her free time, she enjoys painting, running, and hanging out downtown with friends.

As she prepares to graduate this spring, Kierra reflects on why she chose her major, her favorite part of being an SBS Ambassador, and her advice for future Wildcats.

Q: Why did you decide to attend the University of Arizona and major in criminal justice?

I originally was going to go to college in California. My mom influenced the decision to stay closer to home! My parents are from D.C. and Baltimore, so they aren’t UA alum. We came here because of the military. But from being around my teachers and my friends’ older sisters and brothers who were graduating from the UA, I knew the UA was the school that I wanted to go to. And I went on a tour during my senior year of high school, and I just fell in love with the campus. I really love the student culture and support at the UA.

I picked criminal justice as my major because by probably my freshman or sophomore year of high school I thought that I wanted to go into federal law enforcement and work in a child trafficking unit or in sex crimes. That's kind of changed, but criminal justice was really the only major I had in mind.

Q: Why did you become an SBS Ambassador and what do you most enjoy about it? What other activities are you involve in outside the classroom?

For a while, I was really nervous about getting into clubs and organizations. I think maybe my biggest college regret is not making the effort to go out and find clubs or reach out to other students earlier.

In my junior year, I was like, ‘Okay, it's probably time to branch out a little bit especially if I want to find people that have the same interests as me.’ I saw the SBS Ambassador Program, but I missed the deadline so I joined my senior year. I’m really glad that I joined. Sometimes I forget how big SBS is, so it's fun to listen to what other people's majors and interests are. Most of our students are like double majors or double minors, and that's really cool and interesting.

I think my favorite thing about being an SBS Ambassador is being able to meet incoming freshmen or transfer students. I really enjoy talking to people who are looking into being an SGPP or criminal justice major and telling them about classes that I enjoyed.

I also recently started an internship with Higher Ground, which focuses on at-risk children. I will be an onsite school supervisor at Apollo Middle School.

Q. How did your career goals change while you were a student?

For a long time, I couldn't tell if criminal justice was something I knew for a fact that I wanted to do for a career. After taking a couple of classes for my family studies minor, I realized that I really wanted to work in sex education. Right now I'm also taking a Sociology of Sexuality course and a Human Sexuality course.

I know that there are a lot of people of color and Black women specifically who don't get enough medical resources or enough sexual health care. I took a research methods class last semester, and I did a program evaluation on Planned Parenthood and my biggest recommendation was that more of their clinics should be set up in minority neighborhoods where they need health care.

I also thought that a family studies and criminal justice background was a way where I could work with people who’ve experienced sexual trauma or assault – to talk with them on more personal level than a law enforcement level. After I graduate in May, I’m going to take a gap year, but then I want to go to graduate school for counseling.

Q. Do you have any advice for new students at UArizona?

First things first: Find a club. There's a club for everybody, and it doesn’t have to be an academic club. And if you're living in the dorms your freshman year, I suggest doing your research on dorms because I know that there's ones for specific organizations.

I understand about having social anxiety, especially as soon as you get to college, which is really hard and daunting. But everybody else is going through the same thing. So you're not alone. Just find your people. Leave your door open, do your homework outside. Being able to socialize with your fellow students will help you make the most out of your four years.