Following Your Passions Rather Than Your FearsHuang Fellow Kaitlyn Lewars Reflects On The Importance Of Pursuing Your Passions Despite Uncertainty
When I heard Provost Kornbluth was coming to speak to us, I immediately signed up to do a reflection on her talk because I had read up about her when she came to do a Q&A for first-year students last spring and I became deeply interested in learning about her journey from majoring in political science to becoming a cell biologist to being provost at Duke. Dr. Kornbluth’s session had a profound effect on how I am approaching my experience here at Duke by helping me to appreciate the value of being open to diverse experiences and opportunities.
In my high school senior year, I had a really great Government and Politics teacher. Her class was exciting and opened my eyes not only to the intricacies of the government but to policy as well. If I hadn’t already had a love for science I am pretty sure I would be majoring in public policy or political science today. Teachers and professors shape their students’ passions and interests in a way that is not often appreciated or noticed. Like Dr. Kornbluth, I had many interesting humanities and social science teachers growing up and some not-so-great natural and quantitative science teachers. My love for science stemmed from different life experiences like my grandmother’s death and my summer camp’s science “class”, not from what I learned in a textbook.
Coming to Duke, you quickly find yourself surrounded by people who know or seem like they know exactly what they want their life to look like in 5, 10, even 20 years from now. So you panic and pick something that sounds even mildly appealing because you don’t want to be left behind. It becomes easy to be wrapped up in what other people are doing. During Dr.Kornbluth’s talk, she mentioned how in her junior year she labeled herself as pre-med because it seemed like the thing to do if you are interested in biology. However, Dr. Kornbluth overcame those expectations and followed her interests rather than what sounds nice or what was expected. She recognized she didn’t like the medical side of biology and decided to pursue research. Dr.Kornbluth didn’t let expectations or fear hold her back. Maybe your parents, your friends, your professors all expect you to go to medical school, law school, etc., and you fear you are making the wrong choice by disappointing them. Take a page out of Dr. Kornbluth’s book and follow your passions instead of expectations and fear.
In order to let go of these expectations and fears, you need determination and that is what sets Dr. Kornbluth apart. Before her consideration of medical school, Dr. Kornbluth was studying political science. In fact, she graduated with a B.A. in political science and went on to get a BS in Genetics from Cambridge. Williams College, her alma mater for undergrad, sends two graduates to Cambridge every year, one studying humanities and another studying natural science. That year they were sending an extra student and she was chosen as a student transitioning from the humanities to the natural sciences, more specifically genetics. While Dr.Kornbluth likely would have gotten a second bachelor’s in genetics elsewhere, the opportunity to study at Cambridge is a once in a lifetime opportunity she was able to get by seeking out available opportunities, not being afraid to ask questions, and putting in the time and effort to apply. As the age-old saying goes, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. It is something I have been trying to embrace at Duke.
If there is anyone who needs a reminder that life sometimes takes unexpected twists and turns, I would recommend speaking to Dr. Sally Kornbluth.
Kaitlyn Lewars, Huang Fellow ’24
Kaitlyn is a Trinity student from Rockaway, New Jersey interested in majoring in Biology and Global Health.