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Double major finds support and challenge at York College

Kate in front of computer screens

Give Kate Kennelly ’21 a problem, and she won’t stop until she’s solved it. She just loves a challenge. Take her course load, for example. Kate came into York College of Pennsylvania with enough credits to be able to coast through to a Computer Science degree in three years. She could have taken it easy. Instead, she decided to double-major, adding Mathematics to the mix.

“I would have gotten bored if I didn’t do it, to be honest,” she says. It’s that kind of work ethic that has led her to academic success. It’s the support of her professors and classmates that’s made the journey the best it could be.

Support and opportunities

Kate was on a private tour of the Kinsley Engineering Center the first time she visited York College as a prospective student when she happened to walk by Computer Science Professor Donald Hake’s office. He invited Kate and her dad into his office, and they talked for an hour and a half about what Kate wanted to do with her future. That was before she’d even enrolled. “I knew he wanted me to succeed, and he didn’t care where I went. He just wanted to help me,” she says.

The summer before her first year, Kate was struggling to decide which classes to take. Another professor called and talked her through all of her options for an hour. “It was just the endless support that I got from all of the professors that really drew me here,” she says. “From day one, myself and a bunch of classmates, too – we feel it. If you ever need help, they’re there for you.”

Even with her heavy course load, Kate grew a little restless at the beginning of her first year. Then, Professor Hake told her about YCP Hacks. Kate immersed herself in the three-day event that brings together creators from all over the country and challenges them to build something new together. There are speakers, food, and tons of students with the same interests all together for an entire long weekend. “We’re all kind of really nerdy, so it’s a great time,” Kate says.

Her involvement in YCP Hacks led her to the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship at York College. Her connections there led to work with a few different startups within the center.  “I get to see all these different things and explore it,” she says. “I think it’s really helpful for me. It helps me decide what I want to do outside of college.”

She’s also had a few internships, and she tutors fellow students in addition to being on the coordination team for YCP Hacks and working with startups. Between all of that and being a double-major, her schedule is packed, but Kate says all the things she’s undertaken so far have only led to bigger and better opportunities. “Whenever an opportunity like that arises I kind of just have to go and take it because there’s so many great things that can come from that,” she says.

Strong role models

While Kate and the other women are pretty outnumbered in Computer Science classes, it has only made her work harder, she says. “It definitely makes you stronger and makes you have a stronger relationship with the other women in the classes.”

But, she’s never thought for a second that she couldn’t pursue her dreams because of her gender. Growing up, she was always taking things apart and fixing them. Her mom and older sister, two strong women in her life, are both engineers. Seeing them succeed helped set her up to do the same. “I guess that kind of gave me that mentality that I could do it from the beginning,” Kate says.  “Sure, it’s hard sometimes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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