Student Spotlight 2023: Katie Stocks, U.S. Army

Tell us about yourself.

I am from Tucson, Arizona, and serve on active duty in the United States Army in psychological operations. I joined the military for many reasons, but the simplest answer is that I wanted the challenge of a career that required me to think critically and be physically fit. I wanted to completely change the trajectory of my life, as it were. An interesting fact about myself is that the longest race I’ve run was a 100k. It was NOT a smart decision.

What was your educational background prior to attending WSP, and which of our courses did you attend? 

Before attending WSP’s humanities and STEM course at Yale University, and before I enlisted, I completed some courses at a community college in my hometown around 2008. While there, I majored in fine arts with an emphasis on glassblowing. However, after joining the military, I only took one course throughout my 15-year career. It is only in the past year, as I’ve been preparing to leave military service, that I re-entered college and began to accumulate the credits I need to graduate with an associate’s degree.

Why did you decide to participate in WSP this summer, and was there a shift in your confidence level from the first day of the course to the last day?

After having been in for almost half the number of years I’ve been alive, the process of getting out of the military is daunting despite my excitement about pursuing my education. I wanted to attend WSP because I viewed it as a venue where I could interact with the college environment in a non-threatening way amongst a veteran peer group. I especially wanted the opportunity to explore the campus of an institution that I was timidly viewing as an option to see if I possessed the traits that would make me successful at and desired by an Ivy League institution.

On the first day of the course, I was excited to be there but also nervous. It was intimidating to be on campus because I felt out of place amongst the young college kids in the dining hall and those walking around campus. I also felt embarrassed because I am leaving the military after almost a whole career and never attained a bachelor’s degree.

I am excited about the opportunities that are available to me! I feel as if the possibility of going to an institution like Yale has been like an unlocked door that I never had the courage to step through because I just assumed it was locked. The course did a fantastic job of making college seem challenging but in a fun and exciting way.

What were some key insights you gained during your courses, and what is your biggest takeaway?

I learned that many collegiate institutions appreciate having a veteran in the classroom for the tangible life experience they can draw on during classroom discussions. I also learned that many colleges react favorably to you reaching out and asking questions about the college and the programs within the college you are specifically interested in (personality dependent, but you can bet I am compiling a list of people to reach out to).

The opportunity to interact with and learn from various professors was one of the course’s most helpful and unique experiences. Each one was quite knowledgeable on the subject matter they were teaching, but the variety of methods and differences in personality were startling. I valued most the advice each professor gave about being a successful student.

In one word, how would you describe your overall experience?

Spirited! Everyone who participated was invested in the program’s success (and therefore the alumni’s success) and excited to be there, from the staff + fellows to the professors + grad students to my fellow alumni. It was incredibly refreshing to be in such a spirited and optimistic community of people, and I will always cherish my time and the people I spent it with.

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