Spring Commencement 2024: I’yonah Cartwright, College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences

I’yonah Cartwright

Cartwright’s passion for law and civic engagement has fueled her time at Radford University.

I’yonah Cartwright has made the most of her time at Radford University. From her achievements in the classroom to her work with civic engagement and organizations on campus, her efforts are a testament to the mission that guides her work: to see others succeed.

Originally from Del Mar, Delaware, Cartwright, a criminal justice and political science major, first found herself in a new place far from home on Radford’s campus.

“I wanted to give myself a new challenge,” Cartwright said. “I wanted to start fresh.”

She quickly found her place after she began participating in campus activities and channeling her passion for getting others involved in creating change.

A longtime member of both the criminal justice fraternity Lambda Alpha Epsilon and the Black Student Alliance, Cartwright now serves as president of both organizations.

As she became involved with student organizations and initiatives, she saw an opportunity to start a new group on campus, Highlanders Vote, which aims to encourage students to actively participate in voting.

“We’re not just registering students to vote, Cartwright said. “We’re also trying to get them to understand why voting is important.”

Cartwright is also a student leader for civic engagement group Virginia 21, a democracy fellow for the Campus Vote Project and a member of Radford’s voter team.

“[I] and Dr. Rackaway and the entire voter team, and the students that have helped us as well, have gotten Radford to be a voter-friendly campus, which is amazing,” Cartwright said.

Cartwright, who is also chief of staff for the Student Government Association, knew her calling for the courtroom was in the cards from day one.

“I always knew I wanted to practice law,” Cartwright said.

Her secret to success? Getting involved. From building relationships with faculty members to joining newfound friends on weekend trips to Roanoke, Cartwright’s involvement at Radford has allowed her to find the support she needed to pursue her passion.

“[Dr. Yankle] and her classes, like Constitutional Law and Law in America, really gave me footing,” Cartwright said. “Starting somewhere and putting my foot on the ground opened up a lot of doors for me and also gave me experience in those leadership positions.” 

How does Cartwright tackle talking to students about sensitive topics like voting and gun control? Respect and understanding guide the discussions she has facilitated among student voters.

“The purpose is not to have a debate or to come up with the perfect plan to fix gun violence because you can’t do that in an hour, but it’s an opportunity to bring two different sides [together,]” Cartwright said.

Cartwright’s law aspirations stem from matters close to home. The senior speaks emphatically about the causes that drive her to fight for change.

“I feel as though people really need to get out there and vote,” Cartwright said. “I really want my generation to be educated because when I look back on the history of my people – black people, women – we fought for every single right that we have today.”

After graduation, Cartwright plans to attend law school within the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) and later practice law in the D.C. area.

Her hope? To use her education to inform and inspire others to create social change.

“I do believe there can be change through the courts,” Cartwright said. “I believe that change can be made through society.” 

May 6, 2024
Lauren Papp
(540) 831-7749