LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 15, 2022) — During the University of Kentucky’s December 2022 Commencement, the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration will celebrate the first student to receive a bachelor’s degree in public policy from their undergraduate program. The Martin School began offering an undergraduate public policy major in Fall 2020. Previously, the school had offered only post-graduate master’s, certificate and Ph.D. programs in public policy and administration. 

For Franklin, Tennessee, native Grayson Blount, deciding on UK was not hard — because it runs in the family. 

“My mom is a UK alum and my older sister had attended UK, and I really liked the campus,” Blount said. “It’s given me the opportunity to have a quality education and grow closer to my family in Bath County.”

Blount started his college career as a biology major, with a pre-med track. He even connected with the campus through his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, and while working on the morale committee for DanceBlue. But, his academic track didn’t seem like quite the right direction.

“I still wanted to continue on the path to medical school, but I felt like something was missing from my education,” he said.

Blount did know two things — he wanted a career helping people and he had an interest in government — but not so much politics. 

So, in the spring semester of his sophomore year, he took a meeting in the UK Stuckert Career Center to discuss options. That meeting led him to the Martin School.

Blount says it’s the Martin School’s approach to the curriculum, allowing each individual to pursue their particular interests within public policy, that helped him make his decision. 

“From day one, my advisor, Brooke, has worked tirelessly to make sure that the transition has been successful while still completing courses that will help me with my ultimate goal,” he said.

His advisor, Brooke Kuerzi, a student affairs officer for the Martin School, says helping him blend his academic passions has been a unique experience.

“Making the switch to a non-science major, not to mention a brand-new one, and still pursue medicine shows just how much Grayson cares about societal issues and his part in addressing them,” Kuerzi said. “I’ve had the pleasure over the last couple years of watching Grayson develop into a confident and thoughtful leader. He has a very easygoing and approachable demeanor, but beneath that he is incredibly bright, empathetic and thoughtful.”

Blount is the first undergraduate to complete the program, but six others will receive their degrees in May 2023, giving the Martin School seven inaugural recipients for the academic year. Those students include: Olivia Corley, Alli Johnson, Logan Kuegel, Andrew Laws, Hunter McCormick and Henri Neblina.

For faculty of the Martin School, watching the undergraduate program evolve from inception to actual graduates has been special. It’s also been a meaningful experience for faculty to watch the students apply their commitment to integrity, equity and excellence to leadership roles on campus, internships throughout the community and building on the mission to prepare future leaders.

“I will always treasure the students in this first graduating cohort. They have shaped our UK public policy community and we’ll long benefit from their influence as more students join us in years to come,” said Cory Curl, Ph.D., director of undergraduate studies at the Martin School.

As for Blount, he’ll still earn a biology minor. And he’ll use the major and minor to continue fusing policy and his interest in health care.

“I’m currently in the application process for medical school, so fingers crossed that’ll work out next fall. If not, I’ll try again next year,” he said. “In the meantime, I hope to travel some, improve some of my clinical skills or maybe attend graduate school for my M.P.P., M.P.A. or M.H.A.”

The UK December Commencement Ceremonies will take place at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center. The Board of Trustees conferred 2,037 degrees for the Fall 2022 semester. For more information, visit https://commencement.uky.edu/.

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