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Mentor and Mentee: Dr. Kay Ramsey Pays It Forward

This Walden University alumnus from Los Angeles is a catalyst for social change.

If you’ve ever told yourself you don’t have time to earn a degree, or that a career goal is out of reach, let us introduce you to Dr. Kay Ramsey, executive branch director for Bethany Christian Services in Southern California. In an essay on Bethany’s site, she writes:1

“My mother was in prison when she was raped and became pregnant with me. Like many mothers who must surrender their children to foster care because of addiction, disability, mental illness, or incarceration, she didn’t have a choice whether or not to keep me. And, as with all children entering the child welfare system, I didn’t have a choice.

“I was more fortunate than most because when I was 3 years old, I was adopted. My adoptive mother was a single mother, but she was a remarkably strong and loving woman. Thanks to her, I graduated high school—an accomplishment fewer than a third of kids in foster care achieve—and I went on to attend Cal State LA, her alma mater. Only 2.5% of children who grow up in foster care graduate from a four-year college.”

Shortly after Dr. Ramsey’s graduation from the Los Angeles-based university, her adoptive mother died. Family circumstances required her to move, and she experienced a brief period of homelessness. Learning this, the supervisor at her new job paid her first month’s rent. That financial support, encouragement, and mentorship helped Dr. Ramsey continue her path of achievement and triumph.

She went on to earn master’s degrees in clinical psychology and business administration from Pepperdine. And in 2017, she received her PhD in Public Policy and Administration from Walden University. At Bethany Christian Services—whose mission is to protect children, empower youth, and strengthen families through quality social services—Dr. Ramsey uses her education, talents, and personal and professional experiences to improve children’s lives, many of which begin just like hers, in foster care.

“Against all odds, I was able to thrive beyond adversity to a level of resiliency I didn’t realize I had,” she also writes in her essay, We Need More Mentors for California’s Kids in Foster Care. “My experiences inspired me to become a mentor to other young women and to advocate for mentorship for children in foster care and other disadvantaged youth.”1

Mentors Matter

Dr. Ramsey’s rich experiences as a mentee reinforce her belief in the power of mentorship. One of her “lifetime mentors” is Joe Rouzan III, a retired police officer and firefighter who is now president and CEO of the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation. “I've got a few mentees,” he says, “but this is the one young lady that took it to the max. She really not just listened, but she executed everything. And I was so proud of what she was able to accomplish.”

“I think something that really is important in being a mentor is, can you be consistent?” Dr. Ramsey told Southern California–focused news show Inside the Issues. “… And one thing that I really admired about Joe is that if he didn't have the information, or he didn't have the answer, he knew someone else that did. And he could connect me with whoever that person is. And it's a trustworthy person, it's a friend. So, I felt always just very confident that he was going to give me the best information or get me to the best person that can handle those issues or concerns that I have.”2

Dr. Thomas Thompson, retired dean of education at Albany State University, is another mentor whose counsel and support helped her on her PhD journey. She also credits the mentorship she received from her Walden doctoral dissertation committee, including faculty members Dr. Lydia Forsythe and Dr. Yvonne Thompson, who was the chairperson.

She acknowledged their support in her dissertation, Social Change Initiatives for African American and Latino Males in Los Angeles County: “I offer infinite thanks and gratitude for your encouragement, mentorship, thoughtfulness, steadfastness, countless edits, and the ability to push me beyond unforeseen levels of greatness.”

“I remember the day she told me, I'm going after my doctorate degree,” Rouzan told Inside the Issues. “And I said, really? All right let's go! I think that's the important part of being a mentor—it’s not just to counsel, but to celebrate and be a cheerleader. And I think that's what I've been more than anything, a big cheerleader for Kay.”2

Inspiring Others

The Rev. Marcus Murchinson, senior pastor of Tree of Life Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, first met Dr. Ramsey through their work in the community. In her, he says he found “a kindred spirit.”

“We had a very parallel path. I, like Dr. Kay Ramsey, have had the experience of being in the foster care system. And so, when I see how she continues every day to smile bright, to love like she’s never been hurt, it gives me the motivation to do the same,” he says.

Walden recognized Dr. Ramsey’s achievements by awarding her the 2020 Outstanding Alumni Award, an honor given each summer to one graduate who exemplifies Walden’s mission to effect positive social change through contributions to their profession, discipline, or community.

“We need inspirational people,” she says. “My Walden dissertation was about, ‘How often do we need to be inspired?’ We need it every day, and not just if you’re in foster care. Just as humans, we need to be inspired every single day. That’s what it means to shatter and disqualify stereotypes.”

“Walden gave her the pedigree,” Murchinson says. “She, with that pedigree, could have gone anywhere. She didn't go to Beverly Hills. She didn't go to Simi Valley. She chose to come back to South Central Los Angeles.”

Earn a PhD in Public Policy and Administration

Dr. Ramsey says earning a PhD was one of her earliest ambitions: “As a kid, I always knew I wanted to get my PhD. I just didn't know in what. In doing that search, I stumbled upon Walden University, and they talked so much [about] being a social change agent. And they had a degree in public policy and nonprofit leadership. I was like, that's the one. I'm a social change agent and I work in nonprofits. I was like, well, Walden University it is.”

You can become a force for good by earning one of Walden’s online PhD degrees. Walden’s online PhD public policy degree program can prepare you to become a high-level practitioner and leader in the government and nonprofit sectors.

When you choose Walden as your online education partner, you can work full time while you earn a degree online. You can set your own schedule and work wherever you have an internet connection: from Los Angeles to London, and just about any place in between. (Walden students hail from across the United States and around the world.)

A leader in distance education for more than 50 years, Walden offers working professionals a robust suite of support services to help throughout their PhD journey. Dissertation support is a cornerstone of the Walden PhD process. Through four residencies, you’ll build skills as you network with peers and faculty. And as you earn your PhD online, you’ll get research guidance from Walden’s library, Writing Center, and Center for Research Quality.

Reach for next-level career opportunities and magnify your potential to create positive social change by earning a PhD in public policy online.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online PhD in Public Policy and Administration degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,