Katelynn “Katie” Fry of Newark, Delaware, won the 2020 Wesley College Faculty Graduate Award. She is the first woman to complete the 4+1 Environmental Science program, and graduated with a 4.0 cumulative GPA.
Fry came to Wesley in 2015 at the suggestion of her high school advisor, who is a Wesley alum. The 4+1 program, through which participants can earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in environmental science in 5 years, had just begun. As the first in her family to attend college, Fry thought this would be a great way to earn two degrees almost for the price of one. She was attracted by Wesley’s small classes and affordability.
In her first year she became a National Science Foundation–funded Cannon Scholar, and her academic work allowed her to maintain the scholarship throughout her four undergraduate years. She also received two endowed scholarships. She appreciates that she didn’t have to work outside of Wesley these five years; her research and work experiences have paid a living wage.
Fry received an Applied Research Collaborations grant from the Delaware Biotechnology Institute’s Delaware Bioscience Center for Advanced Technology to fund her graduate research. In collaboration with ANP Technologies, a Newark, Delaware, company that manufactures environmental monitoring products, Fry developed, piloted, and evaluated an environmentally based education module for high school and middle school students.
The module uses ANP’s pesticide test strips to engage underrepresented students in active science learning and build science literacy. Fry first piloted the module in Wesley’s introductory course for nonscience majors, then in three Delaware high schools. The education module is published as a peer-reviewed research paper in the National Proceedings of the Council of Undergraduate Research.
Fry completed internships with the U.S. Geological Survey and Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. She presented her work at the University of Delaware, the Delaware Wetlands Conference, and the Delaware Estuary Science and Environmental Summit.
She is currently a communications intern for Project WiCCED with the University of Delaware’s Environmental Science Institute. She creates social media content and articles to share the science of water in the changing coastal environment of Delaware.
Her internship and research experiences at Wesley taught Fry that she wanted to work with people, but not in a formal classroom as she originally thought. She prefers interacting with and educating people in informal settings.
With Wesley’s Admissions Office, Fry visited local and regional high schools to recruit STEM students. “I’m proud that I’ve recruited a lot of other girls to come to Wesley,” she says.
She’s thankful for the opportunity to be a mentor, especially to Cassandra Miller, a participant in the first Success in STEM program at Wesley. Fry mentored Miller, and Dr. William Kroen, professor of biology, mentored both of them together and separately.
“We hadn’t seen this kind of layered mentorship before at Wesley,” Fry says. The experience allowed both Fry and Miller to build confidence. Fry’s experiences mentoring Miller led to the creation of the Student Ambassador and Peer Mentoring Program.
“Katie’s confidence has exploded over the last two years in an almost amazing manner,” says Kroen. “When I took on advising her for the ANP project, I knew that we would have to build her confidence with public speaking. Pretty soon she was up in front of classes talking about pesticide safety and demonstrating experimental design and use of the test kits. She now goes to high schools independently to work with students. She has certainly become more confident, secure, and outgoing with the one-on-one attention and experiences gained in Wesley’s small-college environment.”
Fry was an active member of the honors program and Wesley’s Science Club. She served as a peer tutor and was named tutor of the year in 2018.
Fry hopes to work in environmental outreach and education, specifically climate change.
“My greatest passion,” says Fry, “is educating others about the real impacts that climate change has had on the world. Scientific literacy is an extremely important component of this goal. We desperately need a society capable of making informed daily decisions.”
Fry was supported from an NSF-EPSCoR award (OIA-1757353, Grant No. IIA-1301765), the State of Delaware, and the Delaware INBRE program, supported by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences – NIGMS (P20 GM103446) from the National Institutes of Health and the State of Delaware.
-by Joy Drohan, Eco-Write, LLC