Department Newsletter | Alumni Spotlight
The Katherine Anne Governal Award is given to a graduating senior who has demonstrated perseverance by overcoming personal, economic or physical obstacles in order to complete their undergraduate degree. This personal statement was written in April 2019 by recent UA Psychology graduate Jade Harader, winner of the 2019 Governal Award. Her story and her strength is inspiring.
In complete honesty, saying that I have faced major challenges throughout my life and undergraduate career is putting it rather mildly. I do not say this for pity—I say it because I am truly proud of the perseverance and determination I have shown throughout my time at the University of Arizona, and I feel that I owe it to myself to recognize these qualities of mine.
At age 14, I was diagnosed with a severe case of scoliosis. This meant that I had multiple abnormal lateral curvatures in my spine, which would impact my physical and mental health for years to come. Until age 21, I had trouble breathing, compressed nerves, displaced discs, extreme chronic back pain, and a devastating physical deformity. The psychological toll that scoliosis took on me worsened in my college years. My self-esteem plummeted, and I felt as though nobody could relate to me. I avoided countless social situations that I desperately wanted to attend, for fear of people judging my abnormally shaped body. My mental energy was spent worrying about my health and completing schoolwork, while my physical energy was used up making it to and from classes—simply getting through each day.
Last year, I decided to undergo anterior scoliosis correction surgery. In late May of 2018, at age 21, my parents and I flew to New Jersey, where I had the ten-hour procedure completed. I had 19 large titanium screws placed in my spine, along with three tethers and various types of hardware to hold them in place. I faced complications in the hospital, and was placed in the ICU for two full weeks. Once back in Arizona, I was on bed rest for months. While unable to move around, I spent my time working on a five-week online summer class for my Family Studies and Human Development minor, ensuring that I would still graduate on time, while maintaining my scholarship. I learned to sit, walk, and care for myself again. I fought with everything I had to recover, while simultaneously continuing and prioritizing my education.
Throughout my undergraduate career, I have experienced continuous physical pain and mental distress. However, I have also experienced growth, change, increased internal and external strength, and I have proven that I can overcome anything. It often feels like life is a race that I had to begin standing farther from the starting line than everyone else, but through my courage and determination, I have finally caught up.
I will graduate, and I will do so with a 3.9 GPA. Instead of focusing on how far I have to go, I am choosing to focus on how far I have come. I had the opportunity to effect massive change in my life, and I took it in full, knowing all the possible risks, knowing the pain that would come with it, and I won. This coming May will mark one year since my life-changing surgery. I will walk away from the University of Arizona knowing that I received an incredible education, amazing friends, and a degree in a subject I love. I will stand, cap and gown on, with screws in my spine, scars on my body, a diploma in my hands, and a smile on my face. Of this, I truly could not be prouder.
About the Kathryn Anne Governal Award
Kathryn A. Governal, born in 1966 in New Brunswick, New Jersey is remembered as a kind and caring humanitarian who persevered for years through illness and disabilities to achieve both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Journalism from the University of Arizona in 1995 and 1998, respectively. In 1999, shortly after her death, the Governal family created the ‘Kathryn Anne Governal Perseverance Award’ Endowment, a 501C3 foundation at the University of Arizona. They currently include the Journalism, Communications, Philosophy, History, and Psychology departments. Plaques are proudly displayed in each of these departments showing the names and years of graduation of each award recipient. Students are chosen by faculty committees within each of these departments with multiple awards provided each year. These awards have been funded in perpetuity.