Alumna Kate McElwain Kenningham: Advice for Honors Students—Explore!

Autumn 2012 Newsletter

Kate McElwain Kenningham, Neurobiology '07
Kate McElwain Kenningham,
neurobiology '07
with College Honors

I think that the most important thing I learned in the Honors Program was how to be an adult learner—especially fruitful if heading into grad school. By this I mean that instead of being handed homework assignments, we were told, "Learn this material, in whatever manner suits you." Honestly, I made my friends elsewhere—especially because I was an athlete—but for those for whom the size of the UW is intimidating, it becomes beneficial to form a smaller community. This might be within the dorms, the Greek system, FIGs, clubs, or the Honors Program.

I loved the variety of courses offered to us. When otherwise trying to squeeze in classes required for one's concentration, it's so much fun to have the freedom to choose a totally unrelated topic rather than "GenEd 101." I majored in neurobiology, not because I thought it would get me into medical school but because I found the material fascinating and because I thrived with the smaller classes (I struggle with standardized exams and loved that our professors had time to grade short-answer tests rather than scantrons).

Along those lines, my best piece of advice would be to find your passion, whether or not it appears to be in line with your career plans. That goes for extracurricular activities (you will be more successful in all arenas if you have a fun outlet) and classes. If you want to be a doctor but love English or art, don't be afraid to major in a non-science field. Your premed prerequisites will demonstrate your fund of knowledge adequately enough, and you will be a more impressive candidate if you're excited to talk about your endeavors. The Honors Program offers a variety of subjects to explore and a schedule conducive to experimentation. So explore! You have the rest of your life to develop a career, but limited opportunities to wander. Take time during college or before graduate or professional school to learn about the rest of the world—and what it's like to work in a lower-paying job—before you return to the bubble of academia. I worked as a ski patroller and took a long trip (during which I met my husband!). I'm now finishing medical school here at the UW and about to begin internship at Seattle Children's Hospital. I'm reminded every day that education is lifelong!

Kate McElwain Kenningham graduated with College Honors in neurobiology in 2007.