Humans of the U: Katya Podkovyroff Lewis

Katya Podkovyroff Lewis BS'23

Growing up as a military kid, my family moved a lot and friendships seldom lasted.

My French mother—a teacher and musician—encouraged reading and creativity while my American father —a soldier working in field artillery—encouraged tinkering and what he called “real world skills.” My curiosity was often left free to roam, and led me to have plenty of imaginary friends and daydreams that would occupy my time. As I grew older, this imagination mainly translated to creative writing.

Moving to the United States felt like a culture shock even as an American citizen, and high school was an even harder adjustment. When my senior year rolled around, I felt like a first-generation student in many ways with a father who had never been to college and a mother who wasn’t familiar with the American college system. Thanks to military educational benefits, I was able to attend American University in Washington, DC – my dream school and “reach school” due to my family’s financial situation. I took on double major in journalism and international studies, with a concentration in environmental sustainability and global health, intending to focus my career on science writing or science communication.

After graduation, I began a communications internship in January 2020 writing stories about climate change and ended up writing articles on COVID-19, specifically regarding resources for journalists and the toll of reporting on the pandemic. The pandemic changed a lot of people’s plans, including mine—when I was laid off from my restaurant job in March of 2020 and had the impending end of my internship that June, I scrambled for journalistic freelancing opportunities. But I wasn’t content with just writing about topics I was so interested in—I realized that I wanted to do the work. I decided to go back to college for a second bachelors in biology with a minor in Earth science at the University of Utah, where my passions have since flourished.

Read the rest of of Katya’s story in@theU.