Recent RSCC graduate now headed to Yale

Katelyn Laughon went from years of serious illness, to a year of remedial courses at Roane State, to an academic triumph that she attributes largely to the community college.

She’s been accepted to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the prestigious Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

She’ll be studying theoretical and computational chemistry with a full scholarship. She’ll also receive a stipend as a teaching assistant.

“Yale is my dream school,” she said, “and I could not have gotten in without the foundation I received from Roane State,” she said in an email to Roane State Associate Professor Phillip Hyun, her Roane State instructor in physics.

“I received a very valuable education and was well-prepared to pursue higher-level engineering and science courses.”

Laughon, 24, is a Powell resident who was home-schooled by her parents, Greg and Sheri Laughon.

She said she struggled with anorexia during her teenage years and at one point weighed only 90 pounds. “I had a really hard time letting myself eat,” she said of the disorder. Laughon said she was “seriously sick for two years.” She’s been completely recovered for six years.

While in anorexia’s grip, Laughon said her ability to learn “took a serious hit. I had a hard time dealing with numbers. My brain chemistry was messed up.”

As she was completing her recovery and made plans for continuing her education, she said she looked at Roane State and another area community college. “I felt more comfortable at Roane State,” she said.

Laughon stayed there for three years, with the first year devoted primarily to remedial courses in math and chemistry.

She started to blossom academically, thanks to Roane State educators.

There was Dr. Adolf King, now retired, who helped her overcome being “extremely intimidated” by math and chemistry.

Professor Kathy Arcangeli “was very patient with me,” Laughon said.

“I was struggling to figure out how to think about algebra, but by the time I finished her class, I had picked up the tools I needed to tackle pre-calculus, and the rest of my math courses came easily.”

Laughon extended a special thanks to Hyun for his instruction in his calculus-based physics classes, saying he helped her receive a “very valuable education.”

While Laughon’s academic prowess is mainly in math and science – she won the Anne P. Minter Chemistry Award – she also received the Beulah Davis Outstanding Freshman Writer Award.

Dr. Margaret W. Hilliard, now retired, submitted to the nominating committee a research paper Laughon wrote that resulted in that honor. Laughon credits Dr. Hilliard with cultivating her love for literature through her instruction in multiple English classes. Survey of British Literature was among Laughon’s favorite courses.

In her final year at Roane State, she received the Organic Chemistry Award, the Calculus-Based Physics Award, the Sophomore Math Award, an Academic Achievement Award, and was a President’s Award nominee.

She was also recognized as the first student in Roane State history to earn more than three times the required honors credits to earn an honors diploma.

After graduating from Roane State, Laughon enrolled as a junior at the University of Tennessee and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering.

“My experience at Roane State gave me the drive to reach as high as I could,” Laughon said.