Kathryn Davidson: Launching into Space

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As one of the first to serve in the newly-created U.S. Space Force, Kathryn Davidson, ’20 B.S. Math, is honoring her mother’s legacy by ensuring a future for herself.

(Image above: four members of the UW Tacoma Class of 2020 - Thnwa Ahmed, Kathryn Davidson, Clinton Sizemore and Nataly Herrman and family.)

Kathyrn Davidson, ’20, used the summer to get some much-needed rest. The recent UW Tacoma graduate and current Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force didn’t get to sleep in much during the previous four years. Davidson lives in Puyallup but made her way to Seattle three days a week to take part in ROTC trainings. “It took a lot of discipline to wake up at 3:30 in the morning three days a week and then do classes all day and maybe study all night,” she said.

Davidson started her college career at UW in Seattle. She transferred to the Tacoma campus at the start of her sophomore year. “I just found that I wanted a different experience,” said Davidson. The move south complicated matters. Davidson’s father served 26 years in the Coast Guard and the call to serve extended to his oldest daughter. Kathryn Davidson signed up for the UW Seattle Air Force ROTC Detachment 910 during her first year in college. Those early mornings also came with a nightmarish commute from Puyallup to Seattle to Tacoma back to Puyallup.

Kathryn Davidson, '20, B.S. MathematicsThe long days paid off. Davidson graduated in June with a B.S. in mathematics from UW Tacoma’s School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences. The day before Commencement saw Davidson commissioned into the Air Force as a reservist. Now, in September, she has been placed on active duty and will also begin service in the newly created U.S. Space Force. For now, the Space Force operates as an element of the Air Force. The newest branch of the military is adding service members in different ways including allowing members of the Air Force to transfer.

The Space Force is tasked with protecting U.S. interests in space, including looking after satellites and ensuring they are safe and operational. Back in June, Davidson didn’t know for certain what her role would be but she was ready to get started. “It’s exciting to be on the ground floor of something new,” she said.

Davidson’s work ethic comes from her parents. “Neither of my parents were born in the United States and I know they both worked incredibly had to get here,” she said. “From a really young age they instilled in us that we needed to work hard to achieve our dreams.”

In some ways, this commitment helped Davidson persevere through an especially hard time. “My mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer when I was going into ninth grade,” said Davidson. “She passed away just a couple of weeks before I graduated from high school.”

Those years were tough and emotionally draining. Still, Davidson felt one way she could honor her mother’s legacy was by ensuring a future for herself. “Doing well in school was one way I could help make my parent’s life a little easier,” she said. 

Davidson’s pursuit of excellence is only beginning. She is studying for the MCAT and has plans to eventually pursue medical school. “I think I do well under pressure and so I would love to work in an emergency room,” said Davidson. 

Medical school is in the future. Right now, Davidson is focused on getting ready for her career in the Space Force. Whatever she ends up doing, Davidson knows she has her family’s support. “Between my little sister, my dad and myself, we’re a strong little unit and I know my mom is super proud of me.”

Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / September 17, 2020
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu