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Kanya Bennett

Kanya Bennett

Legislative counsel | ACLU | Class of 1999

No UI professor had a more lasting impact on Kanya Bennett (BS ’99, journalism) than Angharad Valdivia, who supervised the future ACLU legislative counsel’s research on the depiction of girls of color in the media one summer.

“While my journalism courses taught me how to tell a story, Professor Valdivia and the media studies curriculum showed me which stories needed to be told. It was this focus on meaningful reporting of social justice issues that led me to law school,” says Bennett, who followed up her University of North Carolina law degree with a congressional fellowship with the Black Caucus Foundation, followed by a seven-plus-year stint on the judiciary committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“My career in the law has very much been shaped by my communications studies at the University of Illinois,” she says. “In my advocacy in the nation’s capital, I use the stories of impacted persons to influence the hearts and minds of our members of Congress on social policy.

“I know this approach stems from the summer that Professor Valdivia shared her time and talents with me one-on-one, for which I am forever grateful.”