From Texas to California, Business Major Finds Community at Dominican

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The 2,000-mile move from the Houston suburbs to Marin County’s Dominican University of California is giving business student Kendall Weatherford ’27 the college experience she had been looking for.
“I wanted to get out of my bubble and experience something totally new,” Kendall says. “But, at the same time, I love simple interactions with people, so I also wanted to find a school where I could walk down the sidewalk, see 10 people and know at least eight of those people. If I had gone to a large school, I’d see 50 people but would be lucky if I knew even one of those people.”
Dominican landed on Kendall’s radar when she was a student at Kingwood High School considering schools where she could play lacrosse at the next level. Dominican’s new women’s lacrosse program was among her options.
“Because I’m not from the area, I started searching Google images for pictures of Dominican. When I saw the old mansions and all the greenery, I immediately fell in love with the campus. It looked stunning – so much better than a big brick building you would find on any campus in Texas.”
While campus beauty piqued her interest, it was Dominican’s focus on educational equity that truly captured Kendall’s attention.
“I was reading different things online, and the information was really inspiring. It made me admire the culture that is being built at Dominican,” Kendall says.
“The diversity of the students was really appealing to me. I grew up in a suburb in Houston where everyone comes from the same place and usually goes to the same college. Dominican provided me with an opportunity to learn about myself and also learn about people from other cultures.”
Dominican, she says, has similar values to her own, particularly the focus on community engagement.
In high school, Kendall served as president of the youth action board for Project Protect Our Children, a Houston non-profit that provides direct services to teenage human trafficking survivors. The organization is dedicated to preventing child sex trafficking, exploitation and abuse through community engagement, preventative educational programs, awareness and empowerment opportunities.
Kendall and the youth board organized community service projects and participated in educational presentations throughout the greater Houston area. Kendall met with the Office of the Attorney General at the Texas Capitol to coordinate work on the Blue Sand Project, a campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking. During January, which is Human Trafficking Prevention Month, blue sand was put in sidewalk cracks as a visual message that trafficking will not be tolerated. A series of educational and fundraising events coincided with the project, and the students documented the project on social media.
The blue sand, Kendall says, was a visual reminder that human trafficking is everywhere – even in her small community.
“I grew up in a small suburb and we always referred to it as the Kingwood bubble – people just assume that nothing bad happens here,” she says. “But working for the nonprofit quickly taught me that bad things happen to people everywhere. It was eye-opening and changed my perspective. This work also gave me maturity – I realized that it matters how you carry yourself, what you post on social media, and how you dress if you want to be an advocate for other people.”
Kendall plans to continue this advocacy once she is fully settled in at Dominican. During new student orientation Kendall met President Nicola Pitchford and the two discussed Kendall’s work with Project Protect Our Children and her desire to get involved with similar work in the Bay Area.
“President Pitchford was really interested to hear about my work and gave me the name of someone here in the area who is involved with human trafficking awareness,” Kendall says.
By the time new student orientation rolled around, Kendall was already familiar with both the Dominican campus and its Marin County surrounding. She had visited campus four times before committing to play lacrosse, a sport she has loved since third grade, at Dominican.
“I walked around campus to make sure I could see myself here. I drove around the area with the window down and just took in the beautiful scenery. Texas is so flat, so here just looking at the environment around me gives me so much peace and amazement that the same god I love so deeply created this environment I get to live in.”
Knowing that her family fully supported her move also helped with the transition.
“Being away from home is hard, but I have a very supportive family. You’ve never met a tighter group than my mom, dad, brother and grandparents – my nana is just the greatest inspiration. Knowing that I have so much support back home makes me realize that I am not alone. Family is only one call away.”
Since arriving in Marin County, Kendall has expanded her circle of support by joining the New Life church in nearby Novato. There she quickly made friends with people her own age and volunteered to work on the church’s social media accounts. During a recent visit to the Bay Area, Kendall’s dad joined Kendal and 14 of her church friends for lunch.
“For me, church is more than a building, it is the relationships you form and the consistency of knowing you are loved. For my dad to see that I am in this community here was awesome.”
Every Friday, Kendall travels across the bay to Berkeley in order to participate in the UC Berkeley Air Force ROTC. It was women’s lacrosse head coach Joseph Manna who told Kendall about the Cal Berkeley AFROTC and encouraged her to reach out to them.
“My coaches at Dominican  – Coach Manna and Coach Tucci – they are just the best I have had in my lacrosse career. They make me want to be my best on the field and my best off the field. I would not be able to do both ROTC and lacrosse if not for them. They have been so supportive from the very beginning, especially with any scheduling conflicts.”
Coach Manna started recruiting student- athletes for the program when he was hired as its first head coach in July 2021 by Dominican Athletics. Last season – its inaugural season – the team won the Western Women’s Lacrosse League (WWLL) North Conference Division I with a 4-0 record and finished the season with a 13-1 overall record. This year his roster includes recruits from Idaho, Pennsylvania, Utah, Colorado, New Jersey, Washington, Nevada, Minnesota, Oregon, Montana, as well as student-athletes from California including Marin and Sonoma counties.
It’s a tight-knit and welcoming team, says Kendall, that enjoys working hard on the field and also spending time together visiting nearby Marin destinations, including Tennessee Valley and Muir Beach.
“The friendships I have made through lacrosse are awesome, it is cool to go to school with people driven and passionate about the same things.”
Majoring in business, Kendall also is enjoying her classes and professors in the Barowsky School of Business, including Dr. Denise Lucy, executive director of the Institute for Leadership Studies (ILS) and professor of business and organizational studies, and Dr. Asayehgn Desta, professor of economics and quantitative methods.
“My professors have been so helpful and so kind. They really care about each student and will take the extra time to ask if everything is OK or how my day is going.”
A lacrosse teammate encouraged Kendall to serve as an ILS student ambassador this fall. Recently, Kendall was among the students to meet Barbara Kingsolver when the author talked about her latest book, Demon Copperhead, to an audience in Angelico Concert Hall.
While Kendall came to Dominican wanting a completely new experience, the actual transition was at first difficult. The skills she gained in the “Navigating College” and the support from course instructor, Integrative Coach Mark Jaime, who also is executive director of alumni and family relations, helped tremendously.
“I thought I would come here and people would just see me as someone from the South and they would have stereotypes and make assumptions about me,” Kendall recalls. “Mark asked us to write a reflection every week and then he gave us feedback on everything we wrote about. Because of this, I was able to talk in the class about my faith and what made me happy. I stopped fearing that I would not be accepted for who I was.”
The experience made her feel both accepted and welcomed.
“Dominican has made it so easy to meet people. To have been able to come here and to be immediately accepted and to have so many friends, it’s just so great. I truly trust in the fact that everything happens for a reason.”

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