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Taekwondo Black Belter Turns Student Leader & Victim’s Advocate

(Photo courtesy of Carley McGovern)

A four-year-old girl crouched in the bleachers at Lee’s Champion Taekwondo Academy (LCTA) in suburban Minnesota, coloring pages in her favorite Disney princess coloring book. She patiently waited for her mom and brother’s class to end before realizing, “Hey, that looks pretty cool! I want to try it too.” Thus began SAU junior forensic psychology major Carley McGovern’s 14-year journey at LCTA beginning as a taekwondo student, who also eventually taught her own youth classes and earned a 4th degree black belt.

Carley McGovern grew up in Roseville, Minnesota and will graduate in December 2024 with a Bachelor of Arts in Forensic Psychology. Carley is the president of SAU Campus Activities Board (CAB) and wants to work as a victims advocate within the criminal justice system after she graduates. Her 14-year taekwondo (TKD) career has shaped her into a candidate for jobs demanding discipline, empathy, and respect.

“They really preached discipline at the dojang (a TKD term for a training gym) which harbored the strong work ethic I have today.” The dojang discipline serves her well at SAU.

“She’s very detailed and she’s very good at getting things done,” says SAU Director of Student Activities, Jason Richter, who oversees CAB and works closely with Carley in her role as president. CAB works year-round to create events such as bingo nights, concerts, and giveaways that get students involved and having fun.

Richter explains Carley’s top five strengths manifested in CAB’s assessment of leadership qualities: achiever, learner, discipline, relator, and strategic. “Those are all Carley McGovern. This was 100% right on,” says Richter.

Richter explains that the description for Carley’s strength labeled “achiever” is “to bring intensity and effort to the most important areas of her life, which she definitely does.

“She’s very good at adjusting on the fly…That’s why I wanted her to be the CAB president this year. She can adjust, she doesn’t get frazzled, she’s really good with details, and I really needed that this year.” 

Along with discipline, Carley says TKD classes instilled her inherent respect for all people.

“A lot of people are under the impression that people have to earn your respect, but really everyone deserves to be respected,” Carley says about the value that has followed her throughout her life and become her priority.

Fellow student and CAB member, Will Haugen, says his favorite thing about Carley is, “She cares so deeply for everyone.” He says she will make a great advocate for victims because of her ability to listen so well.

“I’m more naturally a listener,” Carley explains. “Victims don’t need people to tell them what to do or how to fix their problems, they need someone to really actively listen to what they’re going through.”

People who know Carley say she has a great ability to read people and anticipate their needs, and believe there is no doubt that anyone in need would be lucky to have Carley McGovern work with them.

Hannah Knowles is a staff writer for The Buzz.