Kennesaw State student encourages peers through campus engagement

KENNESAW, Ga. | Nov 1, 2023

Benedicte Kalonda
Benedicte Kalonda
Kennesaw State University senior Benedicte Kalonda’s college career has been a roller-coaster.

During her first two semesters, professors and classmates were faces on a computer screen as the University shifted online for safety in the 2020-21 academic year during the coronavirus pandemic. Fast forward to the beginning of her senior year, and she stood in front of thousands of cheering freshmen as the student co-host at First-Year Convocation, the University’s official welcome event for new students.

Kalonda thrives on being involved with others in campus activities and since her freshman year has been taking part in as much as she can and encouraging others to do the same.

“After some reflection, I realized that I can create my own experience and academic journey at college,” Kalonda said. “Once I was able to get back on the campus, I got involved with people and activities that aligned with my interests, through clubs, student organizations, and volunteer opportunities.”

When KSU’s Vice President for Student Affairs Eric Arneson was looking for a student to help co-host First-Year Convocation, he didn’t have to look far to find Kalonda.

“I first noticed Benedicte when she was volunteering during the KSU Day of Service and was impressed by her enthusiasm and positivity,” said Arneson. “After I had a chance to speak with her, and learned about all that she was doing at KSU and the importance she placed on getting involved on campus, I knew she was the right person to help us welcome and encourage our new class of freshman students.”

A public health major and undergraduate research assistant in the WellStar College of Health and Human Services, Kalonda serves on the College’s student success advisory committee and was an Americorps VISTA Associate this past summer. In addition, she serves as a crew mentor for KSU’s FLIGHT27 program, a class-year student initiative that focuses on creating unity among incoming first-year students.

Kalonda’s passion and interest in public health blossomed from her inquisitive nature and research endeavors conducted during the pandemic.  

“I remember researching about how the disease started, how it spread and ways to prevent it. That got me interested in learning more about its relationship to public health. I have always been interested in medicine because of my dad, so I changed my major at the time from integrated health science to public health.” Kalonda said.

During her time at Kennesaw State, Kalonda has worked alongside LaNita Wright, the Public Health Education (PHE) program director at Kennesaw State. She acknowledges Wright as one of her mentors and an inspiration in the realm of public health. Additionally, she has actively engaged in two research projects under Wright’s guidance.

Kalonda said one of her biggest inspirations is her family, her father in particular, who has always pushed her to get the highest degree of education she could and motivated her to strive for the best.

Kalonda is looking to attend graduate school for a degree in epidemiology or health policy and management after she graduates in May. She is also interested in additional research endeavors, covering topics such as health promotion, disease prevention, and quantitative and qualitative data analysis, to pursue soon.

– By Ana Johnson

Photos by Matthew Yung

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit