University Park, IL,
12:26 PM

GSU Grad Earns Emory JD, MBA

For Kayla Randolph-Clark, a 2014 Governors State University student trustee and alum, personal transformation took shape in her life at the same time the university was morphing into a new institution.

Randolph-Clark (now Siam), once an unfocused young adult, is now set to graduate from Atlanta’s prestigious Emory University with Juris Doctorate of Law and MBA degrees. This month, GSU also marks a milestone in its evolution from an upper division school to a four-year university as it graduates its first-ever freshman class.

Siam was leaving GSU as the first freshmen were arriving in 2014. Now, Siam celebrates matriculation with trailblazing GSU graduates, and she is inspired by what she’s accomplished.

“I would have never imagined that through perseverance, time, and dedication the transformation that could have happened in just eight years,” said Siam. “I am a totally different person. I don’t think I could have imagined where I am right now.”

Where she is is firmly planted on the launch pad of her life.

This summer, Siam plans to take the bar exam and join one of the city’s largest law firms, Seyfarth Shaw, in September where she will specialize in transactional law. She worked in the firm’s Atlanta office while she attended Emory.

Siam admitted she “was so lost” before she arrived at GSU in 2012. She returned home and to school after losing a job in a telemarking firm.

“I still remember living with my family again, sleeping on their couch trying to figure out what to do next,” said Siam, the daughter of GSU Associate Professor Byron Waller.

While she was searching, GSU was identifying community college partners for its new Dual Degree Program, including Joliet Junior College (JJC) where Siam had earned an associate’s degree in 2012.

Though her mom had always encouraged Siam to study law, she became serious in a JJC computer class. That seed later grew at GSU where she took two business law classes. When selecting a law school, however, she also kept an eye out for one that also offered a strong MBA program. Emory offered both.

“So many attorneys I had talked to said they wished they would have gotten an MBA,” she said, adding that she knew a business background would come in handy as she pursued a career in corporate law.

She finished her bachelor’s degree in business administration at GSU on the same day her then fiancé Rashad proposed marriage.

Rashad moved to Atlanta with her so she could attend Emory and cooked more than a few meals so she could study late. He plans to finish his degree once they return to Chicago.

While at Emory, Siam was involved in the Black Law Students Association and has been published in the Emory Bankruptcy Developments Journal, where she served as the publication's Notes and Comments Advisory Committee Editor this year.

She said she just continued what she started at GSU as part of DDP and student government. One of the practices she started here was seeking out mentors and solid advice.

Among her trusted mentors at GSU was Roshaunda Ross, Director of New Student Programs and Leadership Development Initiatives. The two still keep in touch and occasionally meet for lunch when Siam is home for a visit.

She also found encouragement along the way from other GSU faculty, staff and alumni. Getting involved in student activities, including student government, also was key to her success. Even President Elaine P. Maimon played an active role.

Before Siam graduated in 2014, she thanked President Maimon for offering public speaking advice when she first arrived at GSU. “You said to me ‘A good speaker always says something about that event,’ ’’ Siam told the Board of Trustees during her last meeting. “I will hold what you have taught me when I leave here.”

Four brief years later, as Siam plans to return to her hometown, she offers this advice to the GSU class of 2022.

“Because (GSU) is smaller, you have people who are willing to invest in you,” Siam said. “If you have a vision, they help you get there.”