As Colorado Mountain College student success stories go, Kathryn Howlin’s is a marvel. You could say she discovered her true self at CMC. After beginning her college career at the CMC Aspen, Kathryn, with the support and encouragement of her teachers, enrolled and was accepted into the neuroscience program at Columbia University in New York City. She is now working as a research consultant with the NeuroLeadership Institute in New York.
During a “gap” year between high school and college, Kathryn moved from her home in Michigan to Aspen and did what so many do, skied and worked various jobs. These included a stint at the St. Regis and ski instructor for the Aspen Skiing Company. But it was a volunteer job at Challenge Aspen, skiing with disabled children and veterans where she discovered her passion.
“That really psyched my interest and gave me the drive to do something in that field,” she said. She enrolled at CMC Aspen where she took humanities and science classes. Although she’d always found school a challenge, CMC’s supportive environment opened a door to a love of learning and a desire to excel.
Kathryn credits her humanities teacher, Tom Buesch, professor of communications and humanities at CMC Aspen, for opening the door for her.
“Without his assistance, I positively would not be where I am today,” she said. “I grew up hating reading. He completely changed that. I was interested in literature for the first time in my life. That says a lot for the quality of education and the people there.”
Similarly, faculty member Scott Graham grew her passion and appreciation for cellular biology. Kathryn recalls that whenever she had trouble taking tests and needed private room, or extra time, it was available. The faculty “took the extra time. They’d even give you their home phone number.”
With all her class credits except one – ceramics – accepted by Columbia, Kathryn made the move to the big city. It was a shock. “I went from not locking my door (in Aspen) to triple bolt locks (in New York City),” she said. “It was a cold pool to jump into.”
It was also a shock trying to fit into a renowned Ivy League school, and the number two neuroscience program – the interdisciplinary study of the brain and nervous system - in the country. “I was really apprehensive about it.”
From a relatively intimate, nurturing school environment, Kathryn was faced with being one student among thousands, where the driving force was not student support, but publishing the results of research.
“If you didn’t fit into the cookie cutter student profile, it was too bad,” she said.
Nevertheless, she persevered and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from an Ivy League university. Now, she is a research consultant for Fortune 100 companies, where she teaches leadership skills, diversity and inclusion.
Well on the road to a successful career, Kathryn credits the caring faculty at CMC Aspen with putting her firmly on that road.
“I still, to this day, stand by the fact the quality of the education I received at Colorado Mountain College was so much greater than that at Columbia. Truly,” she says.
“They saw a potential in me that I had never realized.”