By Micaela Myers
Hailing from Blackfoot, Idaho, French major Kia Murdoch arrived at the University of Wyoming four years ago, aiming to make the most of her experience. Her volunteer work has included everything from serving on the UW Residence Halls Association to being vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming (ASUW), and many things in between. However, her most meaningful and life-changing experience came with a UW Service, Leadership & Community Engagement (SLCE) Holocaust trip to Germany and Poland over the 2014 winter break.
“I think it’s been one of the most influential experiences of my life,” Murdoch says. “One morning [at Auschwitz] we got to do some service where we were redoing the labels on baskets that people had brought to the camps with their belongings to make sure that they were still preserved and cataloged. It was a really powerful experience to not only be there and see it and feel the emotion, but also help.”
The trip inspired Murdoch’s honors project. “I did my honors project on the legal strategies of the Nuremberg trials [and] how a legal system takes on that amount of atrocity. It’s a really fascinating project,” she says.
“I think this will probably be an area that will be a poignant spot for me the rest of my life.” Murdoch says the trip made her acutely aware of how we treat one another. “Looking at the propaganda the Nazis were creating up until the war—for at least five years—it was slow steps, but it got to the point where they could get away with what they did because they’d convinced enough people. It makes me very conscious of what words I’m using and how I treat people.”
The experience also helped Murdoch determine that she’d like to practice international law. She starts Willamette Law School in Salem, Ore., in fall 2014. “I’m really passionate about working with our country and other countries to create positive change,” she says.
Murdoch says she knew the first time she visited that UW was the place for her. Here, she felt like an individual who faculty and staff members wanted to get to know rather than a number. Of course, the affordability played a role too, as did what Murdoch describes as “the incredible opportunities.”
During her two years serving with ASUW, Murdoch has helped accomplish many things. “We’ve really worked to make it more effective and more efficient for students and to try to get students involved,” she says.
“Right now we are working on a student memorial, which will be on the east end of Prexy’s. It will be kind of a plaza area that will [honor] any student past or present who died while they were students here. … We’re hoping that it will get started [this spring], and maybe by next fall it will be finished.”
ASUW is also raising money to offer child care scholarships for students who have children.
“I think the highlights have definitely been my leadership positions and the experiences that UW has been able to provide me,” Murdoch says of her time here. In addition to her trip to Germany and Poland, Murdoch studied abroad in France her first year. “I’ve met a lot of incredible student leaders on campus. Also, being able to work with the administration in the capacity that I have—being able to sit in a room of professionals on the campus who are interested in what I have to say and how the students feel and see how we can work on it—it’s been so incredible.
“Had I gone to one of the other colleges I was considering, I don’t know if I would have had the opportunities there that I did here. My leadership here and the people I’ve met have really prepared me for my future.”
One of the 10 Cowboy Ethics adopted by UW is “Remember that some things aren’t for sale.” Student Kia Murdoch demonstrates this principle with her volunteer work through a variety of organizations.