Mercer opened door for Stamps Scholar’s career in politics, history

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A young woman wearing a green shirt and black jacket poses for a photo, with daffodils, a lake and a mountain in the background.
Kendall Webb in Lugano, Switzerland. Photo courtesy Kendall Webb

Kendall Webb said enrolling at Mercer University was a scary decision but the best one she ever made. The senior has developed her passions for history and political science over the past four years, and she plans to pursue a career in public history and politics.

It wasn’t until her last year of high school that the Hot Springs, Arkansas, native heard about Mercer. Her mother saw the University featured in an article about “colleges that change lives,” and Webb added it to her short list of potentials. 

She made the tough decision to attend Mercer at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, having only visited campus once, and hoped for the best. Later that year, she was awarded a Stamps Scholarship, placing her among the highest achieving students at Mercer. 

Webb, who will graduate next month with a bachelor’s degree in history, said her major was a much easier choice. 

“I had always loved history and political science. I told everybody from the age of 7 that I was going to be a history major in college. The history department at Mercer has continually poured into me and helped me find opportunities and given me encouragement,” said Webb, who is also a double-minor in Southern studies and journalism.

For two years, she has been a research assistant for Dr. Douglas Thompson’s Penfield project. The project is analyzing records from Greene County to “account for enslaved people who have largely remained invisible in Penfield,” said Dr. Thompson, professor of history and director of the Spencer B. King Jr. Center for Southern Studies. 

“It’s trying to understand Mercer University’s founding in Penfield, Georgia, specifically trying to understand its connections to plantations and slavery,” Webb said. “It’s been a really fascinating and difficult project. It’s such a hard subject, but it has been so great to learn and learn new research skills. Dr. Thompson is an incredible professor, researcher and mentor.”

Webb said she has combed through an online database of deeds and mortgages to uncover details of economic transactions by local residents, including the buying and selling of slaves.  

“Kendall is both inquisitive and gifted with an instinct to make connections between what appear to be unrelated events or people,” Dr. Thompson said. “I have never worried about turning a project over to Kendall and having to follow up on her progress. Today, she can read sources as well as a seasoned professional historian. Everything she learned in the history major will serve her well in whatever endeavor she chooses in her future.”

Webb is passionate about helping people understand more about their past and America’s past and is particularly interested in Arkansas history. 

The past three summers, she gained valuable political experience during internships in Washington, D.C., where her main focus was women’s political representation. She was paired with nonprofit Republican Women for Progress as a participant in the Leadership in the American Presidency Program by the Fund for American Studies, which introduced her to work that empowers women to get involved in political leadership. Webb said she was initially waitlisted for the program, but a Mercer alumna moved her forward in the process.

“The reason I got pulled off the waitlist was because I was from Mercer. Mercer really gave me my whole career in that sense. That’s how I got my start,” she said. “I’m very grateful for Mercer and the opportunities it got me.”

In D.C., Webb also had the chance to work with U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, which allowed her to interact with constituents from her home state. 

Since September, she has served as a fellow for the Women’s Public Leadership Network, which provides knowledge and resources to help women run for public office. She was one of three women chosen out of 100 applicants. Webb said everyone benefits when more people, especially women, have a seat at the table. 

“I am very interested in making our country work better,” she said. “I think that diversity of voices is really important in achieving that. We’re kind of behind in encouraging women to enter public office, and telling their experiences is really important for them to be heard.”

On the Mercer campus, Webb is involved in the Student Government Association, for which she is the recording secretary on the executive board, and Alpha Delta Pi sorority. She previously served as a Mercer peer advisor and an executive board member for the National Pan-Hellenic Council. She helped raise more than $3,000 for the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation as director of philanthropy for the council.

She also is a Mercer ambassador for Alumni Services and a member of the McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles student philosophy group. 

Webb said she loves connecting people, empowering them and helping them achieve their dreams. After graduation, she hopes to move to Washington, D.C., and find a job where she can continue the work she started. She also will join the fifth cohort of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs Women’s Campaign School, a six-month virtual program that teaches women how to run for office and lead political campaigns. 

 

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