Alexa Harnagel is the second graduating senior of 2017 we are highlighting in this series. This innovative, passionate chemistry major has been extremely active in the St. Kate’s community during her past four years, and they have some pretty big plans for next year. Because graduation is coming up in a few short weeks, The Wheel is asking graduating students, such as Alexa, about their St. Kate’s journey and what the future holds for them.
Q: What have been some of the highlights of your time at St. Kate’s?
My highlights at SCU have been split evenly between the chemistry department and the Food Justice Coalition [FJC]. In the chemistry department, I took on a role as a teaching assistant and it has been really empowering to share my love of chemistry with other students. It has also provided endless research opportunities where I have been able to grow as a student and a chemist. Through research I have attended conferences, local to national, where I was able to disseminate my work and network with other schools and companies. In the more social aspect of my life, I have been involved as the co-president of the Food Justice Coalition for 3 years. One of my all time favorite events our club held was the harvest of vegetables from a raised community garden bed we planted. Being hands on with students, having conversations about our food system, and providing nutritious food was a peak experience for me as a member of FJC. Our goal is to make the campus more sustainable and give back to the community and in that event we were able to reach that goal.
Q: What’s a memory you’ve made at St. Kate’s that you will carry with you forever?
A memory I will carry with me forever is a tabling event that FJC held following our first harvest. FJC and the biology club used the leftover fresh greens and herbs to make a salad and passed it out to students free of charge. We used honey made by Beez Kneez (our campus bees) to make a honey mustard dressing. Not only was this a marriage of two of our sustainability efforts, Bee Campus and the Community Garden, we got to see our club’s goals come to life. It was a small scale example of what our garden could do for students: feed them and open an honest conversation about food insecurity and environmental justice on campus. It made all of our hard work and effort over years of planning worth every minute.
Q: What are some noteworthy accomplishments you’ve had during your time at St. Kate’s, academic or beyond the classroom?
In the chemistry department, I have received the Chemical Rubber Company Chemistry Achievement Award (2014), American Chemical Society Undergraduate Chemistry Award (2017), and Earle C. Smith Award (2017). I became a member of Iota Sigma Pi Honors Society for Women in Chemistry (2016), and have been on the Dean’s List six times. I also earned the Clare Boothe Luce grant to fund my organic chemistry research grant for 2015-2016 with Dr. Annalisa Jordan and completed an Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at New York University where I work in a biochemistry lab.
Q: What opportunities that St. Kate’s provides have you taken advantage of?
I have been the co-president of FJC for three years and the treasurer for chemistry club. I have been a TA for organic and inorganic chemistry. I also participated in CBL research through chemistry.
Q: Are there any people you want to cite as having great influence on you during your St. Kate’s journey?
Dr. Annalisa Jordan, Dr. Kim Ha, Joshua Haringa, Chris Palahunick, and Hannah Jeries and the biology club. Dr. Ha and Dr. Jordan, and the rest of the chemistry faculty, have had a great impact on my development and confidence as a learner and chemist. They have opened up many opportunities for me as I move forward in my chemistry career. Josh, Chris, Hannah, and bio club have encouraged me to channel my passion for food justice into our goals. They have also taught me to continue to fight endlessly for what is right regardless of support or lack there of. My accomplishments, and the accomplishments of the club would not have been possible without these support systems that truly believed in my ability as a leader, environmentalist, and student.
Q: What are your post graduation plans?
Following graduation, I will be starting graduate school in chemistry and biochemistry at New York University. There I will be working toward my Ph.D.
Q: What will you miss most about St. Kate’s?
The students and faculty make this school incredible. There is community in departments, clubs, and organizations. The support stems from the professors who give us the space to fail and learn, which allows us to grow as individuals. The students create a space to express yourself, create big goals, and achieve them. The students and faculty have been the most positive experience at this school.
Q: What advice do you have for current and future St. Kate’s students?
My general advice to all students is to be involved. Whether your space is in PRIDE, chemistry club, FJC, Advocating for Animals, or any other club/organization throw yourself into a community. More specifically, find something you are passionate about and make a change. The campus, the culture, and the environment belong to the students, so we have the ability to shape it into the best campus possible. Take a stand and make a difference for sustainability, inclusive housing or any aspect that you think needs change. You will find community, a sense of pride, and learn to truly lead and influence.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
SCU is not free of power dynamics, and you will come across people who try to stop you and silence your goals. As a young person in college, you are at your prime to use your voice and make a change. Don’t let politics of a larger institution muffle you or stop you from making changes you see fit. The best measure of whether or not SCU is doing it’s job, is by how many fearless and passionate leaders they produce. Do not give up and do not be discouraged.