A&S Class of ’24: Kate Thornbury's Path Led Her from Literature to Law

Kate Thornbury

Kate Thornbury grew up in the small coal mining town of Grundy, Virginia, on Kentucky’s eastern border.  Her older sister, Abby, attended UVA, and though they’re close, Thornbury thought UVA didn’t fit both of their personalities.

“I really wanted to be off on my own doing something by myself, and I thought I couldn’t do that because Abby was here doing her thing, but I came here and fell in love with Grounds, and I realized I could be here and make it a completely different experience – have it be Kate’s College and Abby’s College at the same time. UVA lends itself beautifully to being able to do that,” Thornbury said.

She leaves Grounds for Duke University where she’ll pursue a degree in law, and she takes with her degrees in both English and history.

The two degrees appealed to her interest in the things that bind people together into a common humanity and her interest in what it means to be a human. 

“History and English do that very well,” Thornbury said.

As a student of law, Thornbury will be working toward a career helping children in the foster system.  Her region of Virginia, she said, was the epicenter of the opioid crisis in the United States.

“There’s a lot of poverty and drug addiction in the area, and a lot of kids grow up in the foster system,” Thornbury said.  “I want to help alleviate some of that suffering.”

Ultimately, she sees herself being involved in child-welfare law or child advocacy with groups like CASA, a national association that supports and promotes court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children.

She’s also interested in the role policy can play in making the system better.

“There’s some restructuring that could be done in the foster system to better help kids and better support the parents, and I’d like to make an impact that helps kids,” Thornbury said.

One of the things Thornbury feels helped her get into law school is UVA’s commitment to student self-governance and the opportunities that provided her for taking on leadership roles as an undergraduate.

She’s president of UVA’s English Students Association, and she’s president of the Raven Society, the oldest and most prestigious honorary society at the University, and she feels those opportunities made her stand out as an applicant to one of the county’s top law programs.

She also credits the Department of English for her success.

“The faculty here teach you how to think and not what to think, and I really love that,” Thornbury said.  “I have my own opinions, and I’ve always felt that my professors encouraged that.  They want to see that in class, and they like it when they disagree.  I love that.  The English department has been one of my great loves at UVA.”


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