HPU November Extraordinary Leader: A Criminal Justice Sleuth

Lucie Kirby looked at her phone, saw the 202 area code and figured it was a telemarketer or maybe someone she knew.

So, she called. What she heard sent her heart into her throat.

 She reached someone from the Washington Center, a well-known non-profit that awards internships to talented college students in Washington, D.C.

And Kirby got one.  Next semester, Kirby will work in Washington with the U.S. Marshals Service.

Right away, she called her parents in Annapolis, Maryland, and sent a text to her older sister, Maggie, the cardiac nurse in Boston.

“Guess what I just did?” she wrote.

It’s exactly what Kirby wanted. She’s a Presidential Scholar, a junior majoring in criminal justice and psychology, and she loves delving into why people do what they do and finding ways they can be helped.

At HPU, she’s gotten experience far beyond her years of watching “Criminal Minds” on her couch.

She has interviewed inmates at the High Point Jail, raised money for a women’s shelter for local domestic violence victims and talked to students on campus about sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual discrimination.

Her work got noticed. She’s HPU’s Extraordinary Leader for November.

Ask about her motivation for helping the most vulnerable, and she’ll point to her iPhone.

Or really the quote on the save screen of her iPhone:

“Go out in the world and do well. But more importantly, go out in the world and do good.”

To Kirby, that quote is her.

Kirby had ridden horses competitively since she was 5. Here, in 2012, she rode her horse, Hutch, in a competition at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia.


Kirby’s Altruistic Roots

For a decade, until she was 15, Kirby rode horses competitively. She rode two – first, Blackjack; then, Hutch. She fed them, brushed them, trained them, went with them on veterinarian visits and cleaned their stalls.

Her life bounced between the barn and school. That was it.

Yet, Kirby was shy. She wasn’t outgoing like her sister, Maggie, two years her senior. She was the youngest of two, she had two close friends in high school, and she simply worked, made good grades and kept her head down.

And went to the barn.

Then came High Point University.


The Fun of Finding Direction

She joined the sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, her freshman year, became a leader in the organization and helped them raise money for a local women’s shelter.

She made the dean’s list, became a member of two honor societies and worked various on-campus jobs including University Ambassador, tutor, student instructor and an office assistant with Student Life.  

Kirby raised money for a local women’s shelter as a member of Alpha Chi Omega. Here, she raised money by competing in her sorority’s Lyre Games.

She co-founded the Title IX Student Organization and helped educate students on the federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination at educational institutions and showed how it can impact them.

Then there is her research with Dr. Thomas Dearden, an assistant professor in criminal justice.

The High Point Jail Ministry asked Dearden to pick a few students to interview inmates. The jail ministry wanted to see what inmates thought about the jail’s faith-based programs and what else needed to be done to help them prepare for life beyond a cell block.

Dearden picked three students. Kirby was one.

 “Her motivation is beyond being selfish,” Dearden says. “She wants to get a broader understanding of the world and help people worse off than her. This is the type of student I came to High Point to work with.”


The Fun of SuRI

Kirby (in the white graduation gown) stands with her family at her 2015 graduation from Broadneck High in Annapolis, Maryland. Left to right: Joe Norton, her grandfather; Susan Kirby, her mom; Janie Norton, her grandmother; Maggie Kirby, her older sister; Joe Kirby, her dad.

A year ago, Kirby began interviewing inmates about what they thought. She would talk to them for five minutes in a room with a guard over her shoulder. She did that week after week after week.

She presented her research at a conference in New Orleans in September, and last summer, she stayed on campus to continue her research with HPU’s Summer Research Institute, better known as SuRI.

In addition to her SuRI work, she became a research consultant for a local company known as Pay Tel Communications and helped the company fine-tune the educational software programs it provided jail inmates.

Meanwhile, she worked as a University Ambassador, giving tours to families interested HPU. Kirby always went through Cottrell Hall, the home of HPU’s Undergraduate Research and Creative Works, the program that runs SuRI.

When she did, she talked about her research.

“This is the kind of thing you can do at High Point University,” she’d say.

“How do your parents feel about that?” a parent would ask.

Kirby knew. Her mom is a firefighter; her dad, a property manager in Downtown Annapolis. Her parents would call her often after interview sessions with inmates and ask, “How did it go? You OK?”

She always was.


The Humility of Research, The Epiphany of Growth

The more Kirby researched, the more she realized how the work humbled her.

She’d leave a beautiful campus where she discovered her future, drive five minutes and sit in a windowless room talking to people whose future looked bleak.

But that was an education in itself. It stretched her way beyond Dearden’s criminal theory course and showed her a career path that she wanted to pursue.

Her education became real. She learned that at HPU.

“I used to be very quiet,” she says. “I’d put my head down and did my work. But now, I’m very outgoing, I never shut up, and I’m more comfortable than I’ve ever been, and I say things people don’t want to say, but that needed to be said. I’ve always wanted to be that kind of person.”




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