Katharine Ross: #CommunityCollegeBecause# ... We Succeed

Stasia Lopez's picture

Katharine Ross is working towards her Associate degree in Business and plans to transfer to a four-year university to complete her Bachelor's degree. Katharine is currently working for her parents’ candy company. She is also participating in NASA's Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS). Katharine is the first CCAC student to be a part of this NASA program—and it has been one of the most rewarding things she’s ever done.

Katharine Ross: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... We Succeed

How did you choose your major in college? How did you choose CCAC? Did you have a mentor or person who helped guide you through that process?
I chose my major to be business, because I knew I wanted to learn about business and potentially follow in my parent’s footsteps of owning my own company. I chose CCAC because I knew I wasn't set on a major and I knew CCAC could give me some amazing opportunities (which it has!); I knew I'd be guided towards success. I, of course, have had my parents supporting me throughout my entire academic career. Also, Professor Fox has been such a light, and has really inspired me to get involved and succeed. 

What student activities were you involved in, while attending college? Were you involved with any activities or work experience outside of school? Any advice for current students about getting involved to gain relevant skills and experience?
I am a member of the Honors Program, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the Academic Planning Committee, and I am a Certified Hearing Officer involved in conduct hearings. I am also involved in NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS), and I am working towards a TechWise program that was just offered to CCAC students. 

My advice would be to say yes to every opportunity. I didn't take advantage of this my first year at CCAC, and now I wish I would have. Professor Fox helped kick-start this all for me by encouraging me to be a part of CCAC and get involved. I would tell students that networking is so important! Find people that want you to succeed and surround yourself with those people. 

Katharine Ross: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... We Succeed

What skills did you gain from being involved and/or working?
I gained people skills (communication skills), confidence, leadership skills, time management, work ethic, problem-solving, and many more.

What special memories, if any, can you share from your time at CCAC? 
Even though I was only on campus for one class at my time here at CCAC, I have made so many special memories. I have made friends, I have met some amazing Professors, I have learned so much, and even on zoom I could feel the atmosphere of CCAC. It has been such a joy being a student here, and I would recommend it to anyone. The negative stigma around community college is not one to believe; the environment is awesome and I’ve truly cherished my time here.

Anything else you'd like to share for your spotlight article?
NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) is a program designed for students interested in a STEM major. My astronomy professor, Professor Huth, encouraged my class to apply for a spot in the program. Even though I am studying Business, I’ve always had a fascination for NASA and engineering. I thought, why not, and I applied. 

I was accepted for Mission 1 (Virtual). It was a 5-week course where I learned all about NASA and its missions. I was given materials to study and then take quizzes on. At the end of the course, we were to complete a 10-page research paper, I did mine on Habitation System Concept Studies. I chose to do my research on the environmental monitoring of water and the importance of Treatment and Diagnostic equipment for deep space travel. If you received a qualifying score on the course, you could move on to Mission 2. I was lucky enough to secure a spot and started NCAS Mission 2 at the beginning of February. Mission 2 was virtual (due to COVID, but would normally be held in person at a NASA center). It was a week-long experience. All the students were separated into groups that were each led by a NASA mentor. During the week, we planned a mission to Mars, and on the last day presented it. During that week, I was able to network and connect with some really amazing people. I learned so much and was able to immerse myself into NASA’s environment. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the STEM field or just thinks working with NASA is the coolest thing! (It is!) I am forever grateful to CCAC, Professor Huth, and NASA for this opportunity, it was life changing.

Katharine Ross: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... We Succeed

International Travel
I have dreamed of travelling internationally my whole life, anxious to learn about new cultures and meet new people. I decided to take a gap year after high school. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a career path, but I did know I wanted to see the world. I booked my flights to London right after graduating, saved money over the summer, and then headed there in the fall. I was completely alone. I left my family, my boyfriend, my house, and my comfort zone. Everything would be new, and I had a month to explore the city. I picked an English-speaking country for my first trip, just so I had one thing that was familiar. 

I packed my bags and said goodbye to everyone I loved, not knowing how my first time in another country would change my life. I stayed in an Airbnb with a small family. I was right outside the city and quickly became familiar with the area. I had my favorite coffee shops, stores, and parks. I had become a regular in just a week! I was afraid I wouldn’t meet anyone and that I would be homesick. Although I spent some nights missing home, I was creating a whole new life in London! I made so many friends, I learned so much about the history of London, I went to basically every museum in the city, and ate so much good food. I saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, I went to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theater (it gives me chills thinking about it), and I even went to a concert in the O2 arena, I bought tickets the day of and ended up being in the front row! 

I learned so much about myself being on my own, I learned the importance of travel and respecting other people’s cultures. My whole life changed after this trip; it was the coolest experience of my life, I lived lifetimes in a month. If you have the privilege of travelling internationally, I promise you, you won’t regret it! I’m a huge believer of spending money on experiences rather than things (and learning about another country’s history and culture is one of the best experiences). Although COVID took away most of my gap year to travel, I’m thankful that I at least got a taste of the world outside of Pittsburgh.

Katharine Ross: #CommunityCollegeBecause ... We Succeed


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Stasia Lopez is the Global Education Editor for Wandering Educators and is Director of Student Life and Engagement at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC), as well as an Instructor for a class on "The Job Search" at CCAC. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Western Michigan University in 2013 and earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Stasia is passionate about international education, travel, college to career topics and loves working on a college campus. She’s lived in four different U.S. states (Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and also studied and lived abroad in Rome, Italy. Stasia lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Fernando, precious daughter, Maya, and playful kitty-cat Zorro.