Kelsey Quinn loves good coffee.
She goes three times a week to FosterHobbs, a coffee roastery in High Point, and drinks her favorites – coffee from Ethiopia or Costa Rica with a little caramel and oat milk. She also goes to see the owners, Mike and Pam Foster, husband and wife.
At FosterHobbs, Quinn found a second set of parents. At High Point University, she found a springboard into a promising career.
Quinn, a senior from Howell, New Jersey, is a double major in both computer science and math economics. She is one of two Extraordinary Leaders for the month of February.
She’s a Presidential Scholar and part of HPU’s Honor Scholar Program. She’s made the Dean’s List every semester, and for two years, she was a member of HPUMinds, the student group who work with Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple and HPU’s Innovator in Residence.
When she graduates in May, she’ll step into a job as a market data analyst with Bloomberg.
She does have a passion for numbers. She also has a passion for convincing more young women to pursue degrees in STEM, the well-known acronym for science and technology, engineering and math.
She wants to start a nonprofit to encourage young women to study STEM because she knows women can do what she calls the “hard sciences.”
Quinn Finds Her Confidence
Quinn came to HPU because her older sister came. Carly graduated in May 2019 with a math degree and a licensure in secondary education. Quinn came four times to HPU to see her sister, and she didn’t want to leave.
She liked what she saw. HPU had a good business school, offered a degree in math economics and had created an environment that was, in her words, “super welcoming.”
She thought about majoring in business or math economics. Math, for her, had always been “super easy.”
But she didn’t see herself going into computer science, even though she studied it in high school at a computer science academy.
She just didn’t have the confidence. She’d always been one of the few girls in a computer science class full of boys. Her male classmates, she felt, talked down to her and her female classmates, and her teachers paid more attention to the boys in the class.
So, girls never spoke up. Girls like Quinn.
Still, she loved computer science, and as a freshman, she took an introductory computer science class with Roger Shore, HPU’s longtime computer science professor. She still remembers that one moment that changed her career path.
It began with a question from Shore about pixels.
When no one spoke up, Quinn raised her hand. She knew the answer, and Shore told her to see him after class.
“How did you know that?” he asked her.
Quinn told Shore she studied it in high school. Then, Shore had an idea.
“You don’t need to be in this class,” he told her. “You can step up to the next level.”
Quinn felt validated. Shore believed in her.
“Maybe,” she told herself after class, “I’m not too bad at this.”
Hanging With The Woz
Quinn joined HPUMinds her sophomore year and began working with the engineering wiz known as The Woz.
Still, she worried. She didn’t know if she was up to the challenge. So, like she does much in her life, she prayed.
“It was something like ‘God, if this is where I’m meant to be, let me know,’” she says today. “That really gave me a sense of peace about it.”
For two years, Quinn collaborated with team members in building a driver-less golf cart. They all were learning on the fly.
She headed up the club’s Vision team, later joined the Tech team, became the club’s secretary for the Management team and talked with Wozniak when he came to campus to offer advice. The driver-less golf cart didn’t happen. Still, the hard work paid off.
It helped her get a job.
“One hundred percent,” Quinn says. “It was brought up in every single interview.”
How many interviews?
“About a dozen,” Quinn says.
The Strength in Sisterhood
Quinn did shine.
As a freshman, Quinn raised money, built beds and bagged cosmetics for United Apparel, a student-run clothing company that helped homeless veterans in High Point. She got involved because of the present need and her family’s history.
Both her grandfathers served in the military – one in the Marines; the other, the Navy.
She joined Phi Mu, her sister’s sorority, the spring semester of her freshman year. By the end of her sophomore year, Quinn became the sorority’s new member director and helped its incoming rush class of 65 freshmen get acclimated to college the following semester.
“You learn you have to have a little grace with people,” Quinn says. “For some, it’s the first time they’ve struggled in school, and they say, ‘Oh my God, I failed a test,’ and I’ll tell them it’s not the end of the world. It’s just one test.
“They know my major, and they know it’s not easy.”
A Kind Leader Emerges
Quinn has learned to work with more than just 65 freshmen. She has learned to work with dozens of young men and women, freshmen through seniors, in a residence hall she calls the “fishbowl.”
Quinn spent two years as a resident’s assistant, first in Finch Hall, then in the Women’s Complex. She’s now an assistant resident director, or ARD, for the Belk and Blessing Halls.
As an ARD, she supervises 10 RAs. That can be tough. But Jordan Cady, HPU’s assistant director of housing operations, knew Quinn could do it.
Cady selected her.
“You see her red hair, and you’d think she’s fiery,” Cady says. “But she’s kind and funny and not overbearing. She does have a strong personality, she can command a room, and she will give you her opinion. But she gives it always in a kind way.”
That spirit comes from her hometown in New Jersey and the front row of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church. She and her family always sit in the front row because they are always late.
But it is bigger than that.
‘Living with God’
Quinn grew up with her paternal grandmother, who lived two years with her family while Quinn was in high school.
Her grandmother would sit in the den in her favorite seat, a black recliner, and Quinn would sit on the couch. She and her grandmother would talk about everything. That included her grandmother’s faith.
Her grandmother, Kathryn Quinn, died of congestive heart failure her junior year in high school. Kathryn Quinn was 83.
Those conversations with her grandmother — as well as with her family – strengthened Quinn’s faith.
“They believe so strongly,” Quinn says. “They were living it out, and we were living with God in our house.”
In college, Quinn started a bible study with Phi Mu and joined Campus Outreach, HPU’s interdenominational ministry. She later started attending Rich Fork Church in nearby Thomasville and joined a Bible study in her dorm room with six other HPU women.
The Bible study’s name? “Cultivating Holy Beauty.”
Quinn found she could be, as she says, “super vulnerable” and “super open.” But that’s not all.
“I realized the importance of community,” she says, “of being surrounded by people who are interested in uplifting you rather than tearing you down and supporting you when things go wrong and bringing you up when things go right.”
HPU’s Peaceful Spot
Quinn has grown at HPU.
The opportunities on campus have given her confidence. That includes Phi Mu, Campus Outreach, HPUMinds and her two research projects — one with Dr. Jason Pittman, an associate professor of computer science; the other with Dr. Laurie Zack, an associate professor of mathematics.
The opportunities off campus, though, have shown her the joy of simple pleasures. It’s going in for a cup of Ethiopian coffee at FosterHobbs, taking her friend, Will Elliott, an HPU senior sales major, seeing co-owner Pam Foster and saying, “Pam, guess what? I got a job.”
A conversation starts. But it never ends.
Sometimes, it’ll continue late at night with friends like Elliott and Tara Kelley, an HPU interior design senior. They’ll always go to Cottrell Amphitheater, sitting three rows from the top or three rows from the bottom and just talk.
“Cottrell is so beautiful at night,” Quinn says. “It’s super peaceful. So perfect.”