Senior Javen Betts reflects on leadership, public service and lessons learned at KU


Knowing when to say “yes” to new opportunities is important. But remembering to use those moments to give back is the hallmark of a true leader.

Passionate about public service and elementary education, KU senior Javen Betts has taken advantage of a variety of experiences offered at the university and beyond to further his education, develop the skills to succeed in his profession, and lift others up in the process.

Just weeks from graduation, Betts discusses what he’s learned at KU, what’s next, and how he’s leveraging the skills he honed as an undergraduate to leave his mark.

How did you decide your major was right for you?

I decided that the Elementary Education program was the right fit for me after experiencing a variety of educational programs and classes. The curriculum, diverse classes and sequence really is what aligned with my purpose and passion. Also, the program faculty is phenomenal, they teach, encourage and coach you to be the best professional possible.

What do you think is most valuable about being a student in the School of Education & Human Sciences?

The most valuable part about being a student within the School of Education and Human Sciences is the family-oriented environment that is created with the professional school. Superior academic performance is the standard, but the relationships and vast network of SOEHS alumni is very beneficial. The key skills that I have been able to enhance while my time at KU is leadership and advocacy.

“Superior academic performance is the standard, but the relationships and vast network of SOEHS alumni is very beneficial.”

What are you passionate about?

My passion is to make an impact in the world of public service! I enjoy learning and then leading to make positive change in areas that need improvement. My passion is also being a change agent as it relates to social justice advocacy and equity in society. My degree program has allowed me the opportunity to fulfill that passion through many field experience opportunities, that allowed me to have a positive impact on scholars.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as a student in the SOEHS?

The most important lesson that I have learned as a SOEHS student is that you have to be your biggest advocate in your collegiate journey. The resources are vast if you are willing to put in the work and seek opportunities. Also, seek many opportunities, but do not forget to reach back and give other opportunities.

What’s a mistake you made in college that you’d caution others to avoid?

Something I would avoid is being a people pleaser at the expense of your own mental health. Learn to set boundaries and limits when it relates to adding extracurricular activities and opportunities to your plate. You do not have to take every opportunity you are presented with, there will always be another!

What advice would you give to new Jayhawks?

Advice I would give to new Jayhawks is, choose your major based on passion, pick a career route that is most meaningful and fulfilling to you. If you do what you love it will never feel like work!

Give a shout-out to a KU mentor who’s made a difference in your life.

Shout out to Dr. Michele Casavant, who has been extremely instrumental to my post secondary educational success!

Are you involved with any KU student groups or professional organizations?

SOEHS - Ambassador, Black Student Union- President, TEACH KU - Co founder, Big XII Council Black Student Government - Constitution Delegate, TRIO-SES/STEM- Office Assistant, KNEA - Member

Have you completed any internships, study abroad trips, or other learning experiences you’d like to tell us about?

Kansas City Kansas “Kids on Campus” — Summer internship

Learning Club — Educator internship

What do you want to do after you graduate?

After I graduate, I plan to pursue a master’s and doctorate degree while working in the field of education. My career goals are to become a teacher and then move into building and district administration with a goal of becoming a school district superintendent. I will then move into private consultant work nationally, with a focus on best practices for school district improvement. KU has been a phenomenal place in preparing me to be a change agent and thorough professional. Through the first-class education, I will graduate with the confidence and credentials to transform the education system.

“KU has been a phenomenal place in preparing me to be a change agent and thorough professional.”

It’s Friday. You’re walking down Jayhawk Blvd. to your last class of the week. What’s on your music playlist?

“Life is Good” by Future featuring Drake.

Favorite memory in the School of Education & Human Sciences:

My all-time favorite memory in the School of Education & Human Sciences was the field experience with my multicultural education class at the Boys & Girls club.

Learn more about the School of Education & Human Sciences, the Department of Curriculum & Teaching, and Elementary Education at the University of Kansas.



KU School of Education & Human Sciences

Preparing educators and human science professionals as leaders since 1909.