11 May Kristen Kavanaugh MSW ’12

In 2010, while earning her graduate degree at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Kristen Kavanaugh founded the Military Acceptance Project (MAP). What began as a class project, focused on addressing the needs of LGBT service members, has since evolved into a full-fledged nonprofit organization, dedicated to promoting understanding, acceptance and equality for all service members, veterans and their families. In 2012, the White House recognized MAP as a Champion of Change.

For Kavanaugh, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and former Marine Corps captain, MAP was born partly of her own experience. Serving in the era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” she felt compelled to remain closeted during her five-year military career. Kavanaugh later recounted her experience in the book The End of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: The Impact in Studies and Personal Essays by Service Members and Veterans.

After graduating from USC in 2012, Kavanaugh was chosen the following year to serve on the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council. This ultra-competitive leadership development program is for those who have served honorably in the military and defense communities.

In 2016, Kavanaugh took the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to share her experiences in Iraq and discuss national security. She is currently working as a senior leadership development manager and a Gallup-certified strengths coach at Tesla.


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