Like the long, snaking rivers she saw from several miles above the earth while in the Air Force, 38-year-old Spokane Community College student Katlin Gamache’s career and education path is full of twists, turns and unexpected bends.
But similar to a boulder holding fast midstream – unmoved and ever-moored – her love of geology has remained a constant. It is a natural byproduct of spending countless hours with her grandfather Harry Merrick, sometimes looking out over a very large rock like Mt. St. Helens, or simply staring at a pebble.
“I was fascinated,” said Gamache, who this spring will graduate from SCC on track to start fall 2021 as a geology major at Eastern Washington University. “I love rocks.”
While Merrick – with a Ph.D. in biology from Washington State University, and who was at one time the Dean of Instruction and Liberal Arts at Spokane Falls Community College – was able to show Gamache why the world looks and acts a certain way, life has other plans.
After graduating high school in the Spokane area, Gamache intended to pursue a career in sports medicine, but quickly became tired of learning around people who “didn’t know anything and refused to do anything.”
So instead, she opted to join the Air Force with her husband – her high school sweetheart and the father of their children.
It was during her time in the service, head in the clouds, looking down at “geological processes from a very different angle” when passion reached a rolling simmer. It hit a boiling point during the 2010 Haiti earthquake – just after Gamache left the Air Force – when her squadron helped with the humanitarian response.
“There are huge fault zones all over the Northwest,” she said. “This type of devastation could happen at home and I don’t want it to.”
Years later, Gamache decided it was time and enrolled at SCC, with a desired career pathway somewhere between engineering and geology. Perhaps geotechnical engineering.
One of the more exciting and unexpected discoveries she’s made in college is how much she’s enjoyed her math classes, typically one of the most loathed subjects in all of academia.
She’s fallen “so in love” that she feels confident enough to take calculus and physics at the same time, even remotely. She’s also an SCC Science Scholar, a tutor in geology, and on top of it all, maintains a high GPA.
With a transfer degree in store, and soon a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from EWU, Gamache isn’t certain what the future will hold, whether that’s a new career or following in her grandfather’s academic footsteps.
If it’s anything like a river, the next bend might be too sharp to predict.
“I’m excited to start after Eastern,” Gamache said. “But I also see how women are not represented at all as far as Ph.D.’s in natural sciences. And that infuriates me. At this point, I would like to see a feather in my cap, but at the same time, I can’t wait to have more women in the room.”