My Rollins Gateway: Opening Doors

May 11, 2023

By Laura J. Cole ’04 ’08MLS

Katie Pearce ’19
Photo by Scott Cook.

From becoming a published author to earning a Fulbright scholarship, Katherine Pearce ’19 embraced every opportunity at Rollins to grow as a writer, a thinker, a scholar, and a person.

For Katherine Pearce ’19, life is a series of doors. Each one leads to a hallway of more, and it’s up to us to open or close them.

In her experience, a love of reading opened the door to writing, which opened the door to scholarships to attend Rollins. Here, the English major forged relationships with professors who encouraged her interests and participated in everything from student-faculty research and internships to the literary festival Winter With the Writers, an experience that helped her publish her first story. The combination of these opportunities led Pearce to the esteemed Fulbright program, which opened the door to earning a master’s in creative writing at the University of Glasgow and living in a country she’d only read about in books.

“My philosophy is to take advantage of all the opportunities you can, and Rollins presents so many of them,” says Pearce. “Make the most of them. That way, when doors are presented to you in the future, you’ll be better able to open them—or much more quickly be able to close them. Eventually, you hit a point where you get to decide, and that is the biggest form of freedom there is.”

Pearce now calls Scotland—that country she’d once only read about—her home. She lives in Glasgow and works remotely as senior creative lead at the Florida Veterinary Medical Association (FVMA), a role that allows her to combine her love of animals and penchant for storytelling. Explore a few of the doors Pearce opened on her journey through Rollins and how each one led to purpose and opportunity.

Katherine Pearce ’19
Photo by Scott Cook.

Future-Proof Foundation

At Rollins, Pearce discovered her favorite types of stories to write are the ones that explore individual, societal, and cultural “monsters”—what she calls, “the things we like to look away from.” This became the basis for her honors thesis—a 33,000-word short-story collection that not only helped her find her storytelling footing but also helped her develop skills that are essential for her creative role at FVMA.

“Everything I learned at Rollins through the English major and my creative writing courses comes into play in my work,” she says. “I’m thinking creatively. I’m coming up with different ideas for various marketing and communications campaigns. I’m using my collaboration and communication skills every day whether it’s on a Zoom call with a colleague or brainstorming a new strategy to reach our audience.”

Katie Pearce presents at Winter With the Writers literary festival.
Photo by Scott Cook.

Liberal Arts in Action

Pearce arrived at Rollins knowing she wanted to major in English and minor in writing, and she grabbed every opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field. She interned for Winter With the Writers, a semester-long program in which she workshopped her stories with award-winning writers like National Book Award finalists Elliot Ackerman and Lisa Ko. She partnered with English professor Ryan Winet through Rollins’ Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program to turn one of her short stories into a graphic narrative and presented on the process of collaborative writing at the Other Words Literary Conference. She also interned in Rollins’ Office of Marketing as an editorial assistant, where she gained skills in researching, interviewing, and writing for a brand while simultaneously opening another door.

“For one of my internship assignments, I wrote an article on that year’s Fulbright winners,” she says. “That’s when I really found out about the Fulbright program. I told myself, if I don’t apply for this, I will regret it forever. And then I got it, and it changed my life.”

Mentorship, Mastered

Pearce credits the personalized learning environment at Rollins for helping her develop close-knit relationships with faculty and staff who made a real impact on her life.

“I had so many brilliant professors,” she says. “I loved walking into their offices and being able to pitch an idea, and they’d be engaged and receptive. Dr. Matthew Forsythe and Victoria Brown in the English department were pivotal forces during my college career, and both of them wrote letters of recommendation for me for the Fulbright program.”

Pearce also counts among her mentors Jayashree “Dr. Jay” Shivamoggi, Rollins’ former director of external scholarships, who guided her through the Fulbright application and in the process helped build Pearce’s sense of confidence and ability to advocate for herself. Shivamoggi’s advice and guidance continue to produce results, helping Pearce negotiate working for FVMA while fulfilling her Fulbright assignment and working remotely for the company while staying in the U.K.

“The relationships I formed at Rollins helped pave my way,” she says. “Whether it was Dr. Jay or my professors, they all taught me how to believe in myself and how to formulate concise, clear, open, honest communication. I’m working remotely abroad for an organization I love doing work I believe in—none of which would’ve been possible without their advice and encouragement.”

Katie Pearce graduating from the University of Glasgow.
Photo by Left: Scott Cook.

Rollins Ready

Long term, Pearce plans to become a novelist and earn a living writing creative stories. For now, she’s enjoying working for FVMA while living abroad and continues to write what she calls “stories that need to be told and that hopefully help illuminate some of society’s monsters.” She’s also taking opportunities—like cultural immersion and travel—that allow her to open the doors that get her closer to her dreams.

“Rollins holds a very dear place in my heart,” she says. “It was such a big stepping stone for me in terms of getting out into the world, exploring opportunities, and opening and closing doors. Education really can get you everywhere.”

A visual representation of a student's journey through Rollins Gateway, from study abroad experiences to original research opportunities.

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