Catheryn Bolick, a spring Middle Tennessee State University graduate with a double major in biology and music, and minors in honors, French, and chemistry, was awarded an $8,500 Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship for 2023.
Bolick, a Smyrna, Tennessee, resident, is one of 62 recipients nationwide to receive a Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship. As a Phi Kappa Phi Fellow, she will pursue a doctorate in cancer cell biology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
“It is a great honor to be recognized for my academic and extracurricular achievements as a first-generation student and a woman of indigenous descent,” said Bolick. “Phi Kappa Phi and the MTSU Honors College have been invaluable thus far in my academic career by making resources accessible to aid me in reaching my full potential, when I otherwise could’ve fallen under the radar.”
She added that she is driven to study cancer because her life, like many others, has been affected by it, which is why she chose to pursue graduate study in the field of cancer biology. Raised by single mother who suffered for years with recurring pituitary tumors, Bolick said while growing up she was terrified that it would be cancerous and often worried about who would take care of her if her mother died.
“Through graduate study and my future career, I hope to help create more successful and more accessible treatments for cancer, and I want to inspire others to love learning and to pursue their goals, no matter what obstacles may stand in their way,” she said.
Later in life, Bolick’s mother, Kelly, remarried. Sadly, her stepdad developed skin cancer. Then, in December 2020, she and her family learned that he had stage three colorectal cancer. Because of this, he would endure several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.
“I am so proud of the woman she has become. Catheryn has worked hard to achieve all the honors she has earned over these years, and the recent fellowship awards show that,” Kelly said. “A truly gifted young lady from the day she was born, she amazes me every day. Like so many families, cancer has affected us personally. Loved ones that have survived the fight, continue to battle the fight, and sadly who have lost the fight. I pray like so many that one day there will be a cure and blessed that she has joined the quest to find one.”
Added Bolick: “This has permanently altered our lives. While I know he is grateful to be cancer-free, living with an ostomy bag has made life harder for him. By going into research, I hope that I can reduce the fear surrounding cancer diagnosis, as well as the financial and emotional toll treatment can take on a patient and their family. I want to be part of the movement to make cancer as treatable as a bone fracture.”
Her Honors journey
Bolick graduated magna cum laude in May. Throughout her time in college, she earned several scholarships, including the prestigious Buchanan Fellowship, which she was able to use all four years while attending MTSU. Limited to only 20 students per year, this is the highest award given to an entering freshman at the University.
Over the next five years, she went on to earn the Kathryn Hay Memorial Scholarship; Michael Martinelli Memorial Scholarship; Freeman P. Jordan, Jr. Biology Scholarship; Robert B. Cook Memorial Scholarship; Mary de Los Reyes Scholarship; Gordan and Sara Bell Honors Scholarship for Native American Studies; and the Albert and Ethel Smith Pre-Medical Student Scholarship; as well as several Undergraduate Research Experience and Creative Activity grants at varying levels sponsored by the MTSU Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.
Bolick received multiple honors while at MTSU.
In addition to Phi Kappa Phi, she was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, a leadership honor society where she served in several positions including secretary, vice president, and in her senior year, president. She was part of the Student Organization for Advancement of Research, or SOAR, Student Government Association, and participated with the Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble. She also volunteered with the Reformed University Fellowship campus ministry, as well as the Contest of Champions Marching Band Championships with the Band of Blue.
“Catheryn’s award is especially extraordinary because my wife taught her when she was in kindergarten, and I have had the pleasure of watching her progress through the Honors College,” explained Honors College Dean John Vile.
Outside of school, she stayed busy working as a patient care technician for the pediatric department at MMC, lifeguard at Nashville Shores and MTSU Campus Recreation. She conducted private clarinet and swim lessons. She also worked at the Brentwood Family Care Center and at the Dance Store in Murfreesboro. And, she volunteered with the children’s church at Redeemer Presbyterian and as a vocalist for the music team at Reformed University Fellowship.
Also during her time at MTSU, Bolick was selected to participate in the Institute of Leadership Excellence in 2021, and a study abroad program to Normandy, France, in 2022. She was also recognized as the Honors College Outstanding Second Year Student for the 2019-2020 Academic Year, received the Peter I. Karl Outstanding Senior in Biology Award in 2021.
“I would be remiss if I did not thank the faculty and staff with the Honors College, namely Dean John Vile and Ms. Laura Clippard, for their endless support, encouragement, and wisdom; I would not be where I am today without them,” Bolick stated.
About Phi Kappa Phi
Since its creation in 1932, the Fellowship Program has become one of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society’s most visible and financially well-supported endeavors, allocating $649,000 annually to outstanding students for first-year graduate or professional study.
The selection process for a fellowship is based on the applicant’s evidence of graduate potential, undergraduate academic achievement, service and leadership experience, letters of recommendation, personal statement of educational perspective and career goals, and acceptance in an approved graduate or professional program.
Phi Kappa Phi Fellowships are part of the Society’s robust portfolio of award and grant programs. To see the complete list of 2023 Phi Kappa Phi Fellows, visit PhiKappaPhi.org/2023Fellowships.
Bolick is the 19th MTSU student since 1999 to win a PKP Fellowship. Learn more about MTSU’s Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi at mtsu.edu/pkp. MTSU’s Fellowships are coordinated through the Undergraduate Fellowships Office in the Honors College. Students interested in applying for this or other national and international awards, should contact Coordinator Laura Clippard at 615-898-5464 or Laura.Clippard@mtsu.edu.
— Robin E. Lee (Robin.E.Lee@mtsu.edu)