As a first-generation international student, Kadiatu Kaya ’24 attributes her success at St. Catherine University to generous scholarships, extraordinary mentorship from professors, and the powerful science community in Mendel.
In the Liberian school system, Kaya received very little lab experience. The moment she began taking classes in Mendel, that changed — and so did Kaya herself. As she created chemical reactions firsthand and practiced handling and experimenting with substances that were once purely theoretical, Kaya unlocked a passion for chemistry that both surprised and empowered her.
Armed with this passion, Kaya set to work. Like many students, Kaya required extensive access to lab resources in order to get accustomed to equipment and safety procedures, as well as to complete her classroom assignments and research projects. Fortunately, the academic community in Mendel was ready to provide everything Kaya needed and more.
“In Mendel, curiosity and commitment are rewarded,” says Kaya. “The professors are extremely helpful, always keeping their doors open for students. For international students like me, this makes a huge difference because it gives us a home away from home.”
At St. Kate’s, chemistry and biology professors keep their offices in Mendel so that they can be available to students as they work to understand complex concepts, find research and funding opportunities, and manage the demands of pursuing a STEM degree. Additionally, labs are kept open to students after class and on weekends so that students like Kaya can access the resources they need whenever they need them. Everything in Mendel is designed to support the specific demands of studying science, from top-notch lab equipment to the software and programs installed on the building’s computers. In fact, STEM students at St. Kate’s view Mendel as a one-stop shop for almost all their academic needs.
The value of Mendel to our remarkable STEM students cannot be understated, and that is why renovating our science facilities is one of four key priorities of LEAD & INFLUENCE: The Campaign for the Next Level of Excellence. Plans for the renovation were structured around student experiences like Kaya’s from day one, with the goal of shaping a space that brings our students and their important work to the next level of excellence.
Because students spend so much time in the building, we are building new collaborative work spaces and study areas, as well as updating several laboratories and investing in new equipment to keep students working at the forefront of their fields. With the conclusion of this large-scale renovation anticipated at the end of 2024, Mendel will enter a new era of service for the science-minded Katies who call it home.
One of the most valuable resources in Mendel, however, is more difficult to quantify — the extraordinary community of dedicated students. “We all work to make this a safe space for science students,” says Kaya, “and we all understand how hard this work can be. Every time I go to Mendel, I end up meeting someone new in the lab who is happy to drop whatever they’re doing to help me, often just because they overheard me talking to myself about a problem I can’t figure out.”
All of Kaya’s hard work and long hours in the lab have set her on an exciting path of achievement and discovery. Last summer, Kaya conducted research on two different projects with two different professors through the Summer Scholars program, and she presented research at two symposiums. This year, Kaya is working with the Office of Scholarly Engagement (OSE) to apply for research grants from the Fulbright Commission and the Gorman Foundation, and in future she plans to return to her healthcare roots by applying to medical school.
Says Kaya, “Thanks to the support and education I’ve received from St. Kate’s — more specifically, from my experiences in Mendel — I am confident that I will be able to reach my goals.”