Rebecca Krusz, a political science major from Bentonville, is the recipient of the 2012 Arkansas Alumni Association Non-Traditional Student Leadership Award. The $1,000 award, given in partnership with Off Campus Connections, is presented to a non-traditional student who has challenging personal situations or environment; leadership on and/or off campus; academic achievement; and promise for the future.

“Last year, Off Campus Connections was thrilled when the Arkansas Alumni Association generously offered to fund the Non-Traditional Student Leadership Award with an annual $1,000 prize,” said Susan Stiers, associate director of Off Campus Connections. “We are proud to be partners in acknowledging and appreciating the dedication of non-traditional student leaders. These students are committed to their academics and to the completion of their degree as a way of improving their lives and those around them. This year, it is an honor for us all to recognize Rebecca for her inspiring leadership and her passion to help others.”

Krusz, the mother of nine children ranging from a toddler to college students, graduated as part of the Class of 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science with a pre-law minor. She plans to use the leadership award to continue her education at the University of Arkansas by pursuing a master’s degree in political science and then a doctorate in public policy. When she starts graduate school in the fall, two of her children also will be attending the University of Arkansas with her.

She credits those around her, including her husband, with helping her make time for studying. “One of the most important things is a good support system of people who approve of what I do,” Krusz said. “This is my passion. I’ve been successful at school. I’m really organized, and I try to keep my family separate.”

Not only does Krusz juggle her family and school, she also travels often to Washington, D.C., to serve as a voice against human trafficking before Congress. Krusz said she began lobbying against human trafficking when her professor, Pearl Ford, mentioned it in class. “When she told us that human trafficking was still happening, I didn’t believe her,” Krusz said. “She didn’t even know she had an impact on me.”

Currently, Krusz is working with Congress on two bills that address human trafficking in hopes of getting a bill to the floor for a vote while also volunteering with the International Justice Mission abroad. These experiences have led Krusz to think about her dream job either working for the U.S. Department of State or possibly advocating for civil rights.

“I have people tell me all the time that I’m an inspiration,” said Krusz, a Wisconsin native who moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2006. “I live one day at a time. I haven’t let the fear of the unknown get to me.

“If someone is thinking about going back to college, they shouldn’t let fear dictate. Take it one step at a time. Don’t get caught up in stress. Before you know it, you’re graduating,” she said.