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  • Professors Fuel Alumna’s Curiosity
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  • Professors Fuel Alumna’s Curiosity

    Kit Mitchell’s passions converge in career and life  

    Kathleen “Kit” Mitchell, a 2006 biology graduate, has followed a non-traditional career path. “I am a curious person. An important part of my psyche was supported by the people I was surrounded by at MSUM,” Mitchell said.  

    She’s had an eclectic mix of jobs, from teacher and coach to writer and researcher, following in the footsteps of her many MSUM mentors, among them Ellen Brisch, her academic advisor who taught her there are many different ways to make it in this world and how to brew beer; Michelle Malott, who “supported me at a crucial time in my development”; and Model UN Advisor Andrew Conteh.

    “MSUM is special because of the many research opportunities and the different projects you get a chance to do. You get to be the one to develop the questions and learn the process by jumping in,” she said.

    She played Dragon basketball for two years, was a columnist for The Advocate, a member of Model United Nations and a researcher in the Mark Wallert/Joe Provost lab. She participated in the school’s Hiroshima Peace Studies tour, which strengthened her interest in other countries and cultures, and lead to a two-year science teaching position with the Peace Corps in Tanzania. After her Peace Corps service, Mitchell accepted a year-long science teaching position with an NGO serving underprivileged Masai students.  

    “The Peace Corps changed me. I came away with a much deeper understanding of who I am, where I came from, and how it shapes who I am,” Mitchell said. “I have a greater understanding of people who are from different place.”

    Upon returning to the U.S., she was a girl’s basketball coach, chemistry teacher, environment and energy policy coordinator, freelance writer/editor, and most recently a field researcher with Southern Sierra Research Station in Weldon, Calif., where she studied an endangered songbird, the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.  

    In 2011, she and her husband, Jacob Gallagher, hiked continuously from Mexico to Canada along the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, traveling through California, Oregon and Washington. The five-month excursion began in mid-April, averaging 20 miles daily with resupply stops every five to seven days.

    They passed through six out of seven of North America’s Eco zones, including high and low desert, old-growth forest and alpine country,” according to the PCT website, About 300 people annually attempt the diverse and extreme trail.  

    “I learned about forces that are much stronger than me, such as the wilderness and the weather,” Mitchell said, “I am grateful for all of the lessons learned.”

    Their next adventure: bicycling from their home in Mountain View, Calif., to Patagonia, the southernmost portion of South America. Graduate school may also be in her future.

    “I would like to combine basic research with my passion for natural history, wildlife and the outdoors,” she said. “I like connecting with students, being a part of the learning process and helping a person find a curiosity for developing a skill they didn’t have before.”

    Much like MSUM teacher-mentors did for her.