Meet Kayla McGill!

Kayla McGill is currently a Gender and Global Security Program Manager and Fellow at WIIS. She is spearheading the Next Generation Symposium and the Nuclear Gender Scorecard while she is in this role and we are excited to learn from such a passionate and intelligent addition to the team.

As a child in a military family, Kayla lived in Texas, Georgia, California and Utah with her parents and younger sister, Alayna. Growing up, Kayla always wanted to be a dolphin trainer. That is, until she learned that in order to be a marine biologist she would have to study how and why animals die. She loved dolphins too much to learn about their deaths, so she changed her dream during her senior year of high school. She did, however, briefly work with rescued animals at the Hogle Zoo in Utah.

Unfortunately, Kayla had a guidance counselor at her high school that told her she had nothing going for her, so she should just get married and not go to college. Lucky for us, Kayla’s mom set the counselor straight and he was later let go. The summer between high school and college, she decided to travel around Utah by living in a car with her best friend.

For her first year of college, Kayla attended a small college in Utah with a full ride scholarship, majoring in Art History. She eventually transfered to Brigham Young University and went on to study abroad in the UK. Shortly after her study abroad, she taught English in China and lived in Germany. In Germany, Kayla met Bryan, who has now been her husband for almost eight years. They were married in San Diego, CA, and she had an ABBA-themed bridal shower where everyone dressed up and sang Super Trouper together.

Although Kayla loved studying Art History, after traveling and living abroad, she decided that she wanted to make a difference in the world. So, she switched her dream again and majored in Political Science with a minor in Civic Engagement. While earning her degree at BYU, she lived abroad for a year in China working for International Language Programs. Throughout her undergrad, Kayla was specifically drawn to her Civic Engagement and Political Geography courses and they inspired her down the path she is still following today.

In 2015, while attending BYU, Kayla began working with Dr. Valerie Hudson, a long-time family friend, as a Coder and Assistant Researcher for the WomanStats Project. Dr. Hudson encouraged Kayla to apply to grad school at the Bush School at Texas A&M University. It was the only school Kayla applied to for her Master’s, but she was, of course, accepted. Before starting her Master’s degree, she interned at the Department of Defense in Legislative Affairs where she compiled data on military women who came forward with accounts of sexual assault. Kayla graduated in 2018 with a Master’s in International Affairs, with a focus in intelligence, diplomacy, and Women, Peace and Security. Throughout her degree, Kayla worked as Dr. Hudson’s student researcher and volunteered her time with the Ambassadors organization and on Student Council. Kayla most enjoyed the community of people she met at the Bush School who were all working to make a positive impact on the world.

After her graduation, Kayla moved to DC where she currently serves as both the WomanStats Project liaison to the Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security at the US Institute of Peace and as a Program Assistant with WIIS. Kayla is particularly passionate about researching gender, culture, narratives, mythology, folklore, China, Eastern Europe and national security and using statistics in her research. Despite having changed her major, she continues to be interested in and study art history. She is driven by a desire to get to the root of things. It is this desire that led Kayla specifically to gender and looking at new topics through a gendered lens.

In the near future, Kayla plans to go back to school for her PhD in order to study mythology and the ways in which it intersects with gender and national security. Kayla’s dream job is to be the US Ambassador to the UN where she can have the power to bring a feminist perspective to international security issues. After being the UN Ambassador, Kayla plans to live in a cottage in either Iceland or Northern Scotland and live out a peaceful life.

She hopes to make a lasting impact on the world and we have no doubt she will!