CINCINNATI — For some, the transition from living in a small town to moving to a larger city can be difficult. But, for Ambrosia McKenzie, the move from Flatwoods, Kentucky, to Cincinnati is creating an environment in which she is building her desired career in law practice.
The aspiring attorney is a graduate of Russell High School. McKenzie attended Ohio University Southern and graduated in 2018 with a double major in history and mathematics. Currently studying law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, McKenzie said the larger campus and big city pace have been "an adjustment," which spurs her forward. "I love the new experiences I have been exposed to and the opportunity to grow as a result," she said.
McKenzie expects to graduate with her law degree in 2021. Early on, she set her sights on embarking on a career with the Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG). Already, that goal appears to be aligning with McKenzie's plan.
"I applied to and was accepted into the Graduate Law Program for Air Force JAG. As such, upon graduating and passing the BAR exam, I will go on to work as an attorney for the Air Force," she said.
Deborah Marinski, Ph.D., Academic Division coordinator and associate professor of history at Ohio University Southern, said she has complete faith that McKenzie will be successful in law school and in JAG. She said McKenzie is one of the best students she's had the pleasure of teaching, "not just because of her advanced academic abilities but also because of her dedication to her education and her determination to achieve her goals."
Marinski said despite overcoming difficult circumstances in order to go to college, McKenzie never let financial constraints hinder her education. "She always kept a positive attitude toward courses, other students, and her professors and was fun to have in class," said Marinski.
The foundational education she received at Ohio Southern was instrumental for McKenzie. She said her best preparation came from the many history classes she took with Marinski. "Not only were (they) challenging, but they also required (me) to have fully read and understood the material," she said.
McKenzie credits her former professor with instilling the rigors of class preparation and the Socratic Method, which is used in law school.
McKenzie was also a student employee at Ohio Southern for three years, working in assignments in the Dean's Office and in the Student Resource Commons. She was supervised by Robert Pleasant, associate director of SRC. "(He) helped to build my work ethic and taught me how to efficiently balance my time, a takeaway that has been essential for law school," she said.
Her pursuit of higher education led McKenzie to personal discoveries as well as academic success. In chasing her dreams, she has learned "anything is possible so long as you put in the effort." Coming from a low-income family, some of McKenzie's toughest barriers" have revolved around money, she said.
"During the majority of my time at Southern, I worked three jobs to make sure I could pay my bills," she said. "This was not always easy, but I quickly learned how to manage my time (and) after years of hard work, my dream are finally coming true."
McKenzie offered advice to those from the Ashland area about pursuing goals. "I recommendnot being afraid to step out of your comfort zone." She encourages others to listen and learn from the real-life experiences of others. "Never be afraid to ask questions," said McKenzie. "Generally, people are willing to answer and jump at your eagerness to learn."
Since relocating to Cincinnati, McKenzie is working with the Ohio Innocence Project based out of UC Law. She said the program has seen 28 innocent men and women who were wrongfully convicted released from prison.
In reflecting on the capabilities of his former student worker, Pleasant said, "I am proud of her. Ambrosia is going to be an asset where ever she is." He said she has "the kind of personality, ambition, and something extra that's positive to be around."
With her law degree anticipated in about two years, McKenzie is already planning for her future post-JAG program completion. "In the future, you will be able to find me on an Air Force base somewhere, hopefully in Germany."