My name is Kendrik Icenhour and I currently serve as a development intern at Represent Women and FairVote. I am a rising senior at Duke University where I study Public Policy, Political Science, and Education.
I originally had no interest in politics or governance. In high school, I spent my time in STEM courses (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and working in a microbiology lab in Durham, NC. Once I got to Duke, I found my STEM courses unrewarding, so I sought refuge in my social science classes. One class in particular-Student Activism, Storytelling, and Community Change -- revealed my true passion. We were instructed to keep a daily journal and at midterm, my professor read mine and wrote, “Every single one of your entries has something to do with social justice or politics…Have you ever considered a future in policy/politics?” The next semester, I took the Introduction to Policy Analysis course and declared my major three weeks into the semester.
The vast majority of my time at Duke has been dedicated to grassroots organizing. The act of coalition building is incredibly empowering. I grew up very liberal in a conservative part of Northern Virginia and then moved to a county in North Carolina that is 80 percent Republican. I could never find other people who thought like I do. Organizing really showed me that you can find others who share your passions, creating a sense of comfort rather than isolation.
For my first and second years at Duke, I served as the director of outreach on a student-led campaign to block the construction of a Combined Heat and Power natural gas plant by Duke Energy. Through our organizing, we were able to block the plant’s construction. During the Fall of my junior year, I worked as an organizing fellow for the North Carolina Democratic Party. For nearly five months, I lead canvasses, phone banks and other events in Durham County.
More recently, other student leaders and I formed a coalition to address the systemic oppression experienced by minority students at the hands of the University. I also took a class in which my project team and I worked with CommonCause NC and the Volcker Alliance on political and grassroots strategies for redistricting reform for North Carolina. This experience is what really pushed me to apply to FairVote, since these issues are often overlooked but are so profound to our conception of government.
Outside of organizing, I spend a lot of my time conducting research. I spent my sophomore summer at Population Connection serving as the public policy intern, tracking bills and writing case studies on policy implementation and outcomes. Moreover, I work for three professors in Duke’s School of Public Policy on projects ranging from political ambition to the influence of historically black colleges and universities on political involvement. I am also currently writing my Honors thesis on colleges and universities and how they can and do create students who are civically engaged and oriented towards social impact and entrepreneurship.
I’m thrilled to join FairVote this summer, working towards a more democratic Union by giving voters “a greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans.” I hope to broaden my understanding of what it means to be fairly represented and fight for representation for traditionally underrepresented groups.