You probably wouldn’t expect a student working on her law degree to enroll simultaneously in a bachelor’s degree program, but that’s exactly what Ronda Baldwin-Kennedy did. Of course, Ronda has never been one to choose the conventional or easy path, and it’s a philosophy that has made all the difference throughout her life.
Ronda’s exceptional story begins in Wisconsin, where she was raised by her grandparents in a small town just outside of Milwaukee. “We were the only family of color in the whole town,” Ronda says. “School was quite a challenge because there were some students who had never seen a person of color before.”
In fact, school was so much of a struggle for Ronda that she eventually dropped out. She earned her GED and began taking classes at a community college. She also started working for the city of Milwaukee as a City Building Inspector. This opportunity turned bittersweet though when she and her female coworkers were sexually harassed. Realizing she needed to stand up for herself, Ronda successfully brought suit against the city.
Although difficult at the time, the experience gave Ronda a new respect and appreciation for the law – a respect that would drastically alter her career interests. She chose to move out of Wisconsin and headed to California where she enrolled in an online law school while working at a law firm. But becoming a lawyer isn’t Ronda’s end goal and that’s where Ashford University enters Ronda’s story.
“My long-term goal is to have a Senate seat one day where I can actually make a difference,” Ronda explains. “And I think it’s important for people who are in legislation to actually understand the law.”
So, while Ronda finished up her Juris Doctor degree, she also enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Government program at Ashford to link her legal knowledge with a solid understanding of the political process. Politics, it seems, is in Ronda’s blood.
“My great-grandfather was actually the first black State Assemblyman in Wisconsin,” Ronda says. “He was a legislator and instilled in his children the importance of the law. He actually was passing civil rights bills 20-40 years before the Civil Rights Act. So I’ve always had that drive to protect the law, protect the Constitution, and give people legal counsel when they can’t afford it.”
Even though she was working on a bachelor’s degree while completing a law degree, Ronda’s plate wasn’t quite full just yet. During this time, she also found out that she was pregnant…with triplets! It was a difficult pregnancy and she ended up spending more than three months in the hospital.
“One of the first calls I made on my way to the hospital was to my Academic Advisor,” Ronda says. Ashford was able to offer Ronda some flexibility, including breaks between classes when she needed them. “I could not have achieved my academic goals without Ashford University.”
With perseverance, Ronda did achieve her academic goals. She completed her bachelor’s degree in 2013, just a few months after giving birth to her triplets. Later that year, she graduated from law school. In 2014, she passed the California Bar exam and she started her own law practice the following year.
Ronda has achieved a great deal, but she’s not the kind of person who likes to rest on her laurels. In addition to growing her law practice and raising her children, Ronda has started to teach classes at the law school she attended. She has also returned to Ashford to add to her knowledge of public service, enrolling in the Master of Public Administration degree program. It may seem like a lot, but that’s the way Ronda likes it. “For me, I’ve always had the motto of ‘just do it’ and that’s what I do,” Ronda says. She also has some advice for anyone thinking about going back to school.
“Take the plunge,” she says. “It’s scary at first. But it’s a short sacrifice for a long-term reward. Some people say, ‘Oh, four years is a long time,’ but those four years are going to pass whether you’re in school or not. So why not spend them in school and getting your degree so you can achieve your goals?”