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STEM Scholar Finds Community, Forges Connections at York College

A student posing in front of the WPAC on a red carpet

JaNýa Brown ’24 dove in headfirst at York College, filling her schedule with experiences inside and outside of her comfort zone.

JaNýa Brown ’24 is used to people misspelling her name, so she didn’t hold it against York College of Pennsylvania when she got her acceptance letter. She wasn’t planning to enroll, but thought a visit to campus wouldn’t hurt. That visit changed everything.

When she mentioned the misspelling to the Vice President of Enrollment Management during the tour, he didn’t brush her off or offer a lame apology; he immediately went into the school records and added the missing accent over the y. “It just made it seem that they really cared,” she says. “The environment and community at the school changed my mind of what school I wanted to go to.”

Now in her second year at York College, she’s more sure than ever that she made the right choice.

True crime, in real life

If you’ve seen the true crime show NCIS, you couldn’t have missed Abby—the spunky, goth forensic scientist. That’s who Brown wants to be. A Forensic Chemistry major with a Pre-Med focus, Brown’s love of true crime shows sparked her interest in the field.

But, it’s a greater purpose that’s driven her this far. “I’d love to help find out how someone died, help give the family closure,” she says.

She’s also interested in genetic research—using recombinant DNA to help people with chronic diseases like diabetes. As a sophomore, she’s already been able to learn a lot since her major-specific classes are interspersed with general education, not front-loaded general education like some other programs she considered.

“It really gave me that hands-on experience I was looking for,” she says. “You can really get that professor-to-student connection that you don’t find at many other schools.”

Building a community

As a member of the STEM Scholars Program at York College, Brown opted to spend her first year in a living and learning community, taking over an entire dorm floor with other science, technology, engineering, and math majors.

“It helps to build a tight-knit community that you can learn from and rely on,” she says.

They worked together on projects, pushed each other to think differently, and played “Cards Against Humanity” every Friday night. She met her best friend, Sarah, through STEM Scholars, and learned how to work in a group with people who approach problems completely differently from one another.

Scheduled to the max

Brown’s black Nike band Apple Watch is pretty much an extension of her arm. You’ll never see her without it. When it vibrates, she knows she’s got 10 minutes to get from wherever she is to her next activity. It vibrates a lot. “My calendar is immaculately spaced out,” she says. “I’m a person who needs structure to be able to fully focus.”

She’s a Sophomore Senator, Campus Activity Board trivia chair, and Resident Assistant. She’ll also drop by the occasional Anime Club event and is excited about a new organization building a community for Black students on campus, Owning My Blackness.

“You can find people you really connect with,” she says. “I think it’s an amazing thing that York College does very well.”

Don’t worry, there’s also time for friends, including a standing dinner date with some of her STEM Scholar friends and late-night hangs—all scheduled in her calendar, of course.

The sense of community is what first drew Brown to York College. Now, after just one year, she’s fully immersed in all the school has to offer, she says. “It was a great environment to join.”