The ability to empower people to pursue their goals is what Clayton-Code loves about teaching at NKU. She returned to NKU for her master’s degree and the University of Louisville for her Ph.D. Now after more than 20 years, she says she couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
“NKU has something special to offer. It’s the small class sizes, and I’m not just saying that because it’s our tagline. At NKU, you’re working with the professor who is the expert in their field,” Clayton-Code says. “Each semester is different, and the class culture is different. I’ve taught a lot of different classes—23 I think—and that’s what has kept it fun and impactful.”
In 2009, Clayton-Code found another way to empower high school girls through a conference hosted by the newly formed Institute for Talent Development and Gifted Studies
. The next year, she joined forces with Young Women LEAD to hold the annual conference at NKU, and it has continued for 11 years.
“You think you’re doing this little thing, and it’s just a one-day event. But it’s become more than that,” she says. “No one has told these girls that they have value and can contribute to whatever they want to do. It is amazing to me how many are not getting that message. We think we are giving it in many different forms, but it’s not there for some reason.”
Through Young Women Lead’s format, many more are hearing the message. COVID shifted the past two conferences to virtual events, but it also expanded the reach. In 2020, participants from 28 different states attended. This year, young women nationwide and from Canada, Guatemala and Mexico attended after finding the event on social media. The virtual platform amplified their efforts to promote Young Women LEAD’s message of empowering high school girls.
“Last fall in the Student Union, a student came up to us and said, ‘I’m at NKU because of Young Women LEAD and what you said that day,’” Clayton-Code says. “It does connect, and it’s so important. Confidence research tells us that girls’ confidence levels are evenly matched to boys until the age of 10. At this point, her confidence plummets until it finally begins to rebound in the college years. However, her self-confidence will not return to fourth grade levels until she is 50. That is just sad, and we want to change that.”
Family has always influenced Clayton-Code, and receiving the Milburn Award makes it come full circle. She followed in her father’s footsteps to become a professor at NKU and saw him receive the Milburn Award in 2005. This past fall, she accepted the same award with her father and sons in attendance.
“Northern is always where I wanted to be,” she says. “NKU was always my goal, and I got to be here with my dad having him as a trusted adviser on campus. And now my sons are here. I love it, and I love what I do. And, I guess I need to find a new goal now because I’m living it.”