spea magazine

Cream of the Crop

Student Stories: Nathan Kohley


Nathan Kohley’s recipe for academic success is simple: Pick a major you’re genuinely interested in. This SPEA IUPUI senior discovered criminal justice and his enthusiasm for the field hasn’t flagged yet. “Criminal justice was way more interesting than I ever imagined it would be,” says the 21-year-old Monticello, Indiana native. “My friends can get tired of me talking about the problems in our prison system.”

Known on campus as an extraordinary student with boundless energy, Kohley is the first to admit that his grades—he has a 3.24 GPA—could be better. He says it’s the price he pays for being über-involved in campus activities. He’s on the Oteam, the IUPUI campus orientation program, has served as mentor in two criminal justice learning communities, and has been elected president of undergraduate student government.

But wait! There is more: participation in SPEA ambassadors, intramurals, volunteering at the Indiana State Museum and helping with Campus Days, working for University Information and Technology Services as a computer lab attendant, and assisting several professors. “I honestly probably should have better study skills but throughout my life, even in high school, I’ve always put activities slightly ahead of my academics. And that’s only because I receive good grades. Otherwise I’d definitely rethink my strategy.”

At this writing Kohley is 26 credit hours away from graduation with only one major hurdle left, the Capstone class. The rest of his credit hours are all electives plus the speech class he deliberately deferred until his last year because he figured he’s likely to ace it. “Public speaking,” he says, “comes easy to me.” So does scuba diving—Kohley is a licensed diver.

His greatest influence? His family. “My father is an extremely intelligent man who was pursuing an engineering degree at Purdue when he dropped out to marry my mom. He only had a few semesters left when he quit and has always encouraged me to put school at the top of my list.” Kohley’s parents are proud of their son’s accomplishments. “They’re happy that I’m so happy with my life right now. And even though they’d support me in any career goal I choose, they’re especially happy that I’m on my way to achieving a law degree.”

Kohley (pronounced like the coli in e. coli, he is fond of saying) is characteristically thoughtful as he explains his reasons for choosing CJ. “I’ve always wanted to be an attorney and thought this would be a unique route to go before applying to law school,” he explains. “I didn’t want to be the typical political science or English major so I decided to try criminal justice instead. I also thought it would offer more options beyond law school if I changed my mind about law in the future.”

Unlikely. Practicing law has been a lifelong dream and as his professors and parents will tell you, he is good at arguing his point of view. He is also considering pursuing a Ph.D. after he earns his JD. “I think I’d like to become a professor someday so I can help students like I’ve been helped here at IUPUI.”