|Experiences in Africa and impoverished areas of New York City have helped prepare Katie McClellan for a career in public health.
Sometimes mother and father really do know best. Katie McClellan ’07 thought she belonged at a research university. And while she applied to them, her parents researched liberal-arts colleges.
“They knew I needed to go someplace special, that I needed intellectually stimulating academic opportunities—but also more than that,” McClellan recalls.
Visiting Dickinson her senior year of high school, she felt at home on campus and was impressed by the attention paid to her by the faculty. The deal was sealed when she was offered two scholarships that are generously funded by Dickinsonians.
McClellan is the first-ever recipient of the Inge Paul and John R. Stafford Scholarship, given to superior students who already have been awarded the $15,000 John Dickinson Scholarship. The Stafford Scholarship is for students in the life sciences and provides an additional $3,000 for independent research.
“I have met the Staffords several times—they are amazing people,” McClellan says. “It’s hard to put into words how grateful I am for the opportunities this scholarship has provided me.”
The biology major used her Stafford stipend this past summer as a New York City Department of Health intern in the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.
“I conducted a public-health study of syphilis among men in the emergency room,” McClellan explains. “I worked with two physicians to assess patient knowledge and awareness and promote testing. I focused on a population that is very much at risk but often forgotten.”
Living in the Big Apple was a new experience for McClellan, but it wasn’t the first excursion for this Asheville, N.C., native. As a first-year student, she was awarded an Engage the World fellowship, which she used to spend two months in Mali, West Africa, studying reproductive health. She also attended the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, last spring.
Back in Carlisle, McClellan is a community adviser (CA) for the residence-life office. She supervises eight residence advisers.
“It’s hard to define my role as a CA,” she muses. “It’s moral and administrative support. CAs are the first people the RAs call if there is a roommate conflict, an alcohol problem or a psychological issue.”
She also is a student supervisor for The Clarke Forum. McClellan’s projects include writing press releases, coordinating on-campus publicity, preparing programs, introducing and interacting with speakers, and overseeing student project managers.
Her list of activities also includes the honor society Alpha Lambda Delta, the Outing Club and the Women’s Center. She was the 2005 recipient of the Wheel and Chain Leadership Award, which provided $2,500 dollars toward tuition for two years.
On the academic front, McClellan has been most influenced by two professors: Julie Winterich, assistant professor of women’s studies, and John Henson, professor of biology.
“Women’s Health with Professor Winterich changed the way I view medicine,” McClellan says. “She taught me that medicine isn’t just science—there is a social context, and it needs to be looked at holistically.
“Professor Henson’s Animal Development class reaffirmed my decision to be a biology major. His enthusiasm for lab work is contagious. He makes students love being in the lab.”
And the respect is mutual. “Katie has impressed me with her intellect, initiative, depth of understanding of complex material and positive attitude,” Henson says. “She exemplifies the Dickinson student who is not afraid to engage the world in an effort to effect change.”
McClellan is conducting her honors research project with Henson.
“It will probably be a developmental biology study of sea urchins,” McClellan says.
McClellan also partnered with Henson on a trip to Maine where she and another student assisted him with his sea-urchin research at the Mount Desert Island Laboratory.
McClellan plans to use her well-rounded education to attend medical school and focus on women’s reproductive health. She recently accepted a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, which provides $26,000 toward tuition for a master’s in public health at a university in England. She also has applied for a Fulbright fellowship.
She is not the only member of her family who is immersed in the life of Dickinson. Her brother, Owen, is a sophomore, and her parents, Tom and Patricia, are members of the Parents Council. All four attended the capital campaign kickoff in Philadelphia in October.
“It was a McClellan family outing,” she says, laughing. Katie was one of the featured Dickinsonians in the kickoff program. It is easy for her to support the campaign goal of raising funds for scholarships, since she wouldn’t be here without them.
“I’ve had lots of defining moments at Dickinson,” she says. “I found places on campus where I fit in, which helped me grow.”