PYP Interview: 2020 PYP Scholarship Winner Katie Winter

I lived here my entire life. So, I really love to keep that connection here. I plan to stay here. That’s why it was so cool to be further involved with the community during this time.

Pittsburgh Young Professional’s (PYP) Public Relations Committee recently sat down with Katie Winter, the 2020 PYP scholarship winner to discuss how our scholarship has helped her accomplish her goals and shaped her future. Katie Winters has a dual undergraduate degree from Carlow University in accounting and art, with a concentration in art history. She then was accepted to CMU for graduate school in their management program.

The Pittsburgh Young Professionals (PYP) Scholarship Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation was created to provide career-minded individuals the opportunity to develop professionally, civically and socially within the Pittsburgh Region. The scholarship is made possible by our sponsors and partner, as well as fundraising events like the 2021 PYP Scholarship Golf Outing.

Recently, PYP’s Public Relations Committee sat down with Katie Winter, the 2020 PYP scholarship winner to discuss how our scholarship has helped her accomplish her goals and shaped her future. Katie Winters has a dual undergraduate degree from Carlow University in accounting and art, with a concentration in art history. She then was accepted to CMU for graduate school in their management program.

As our scholarship winner in 2020, we were hoping that you could let us know why you took advantage of the opportunity and why others should take advantage of the opportunity? How did you hear about the scholarship?

I was aware of it (PYP) through my internships. I interned downtown with various accounting firms within the last 2 years of my undergrad degree. So, I was aware of some networking events that I had heard about, and I went to a networking event. While at the event, I met with a bunch of grad schools.I knew I wanted to go to grad school, but the event helped me launch my journey because during the event I met a woman from PITT who helped me perfect my grad essay. From that point on, I just followed up with her through emails A while later  I went to apply for a scholarship on the Pittsburgh Foundation website and saw that PYP had a scholarship as well, and I knew PYP from the networking events and thought, based on my experience, I fit the requirements. I had been interested in growing my involvement with networking organizations and believed that the scholarship would be a great opportunity to increase my participation with PYP and applied.”

Could you tell us a little bit about your experience in your undergraduate, and then graduate program and what led you to follow that path?

“When I first went into undergrad, I knew I wanted to do something arts-related. It was something in high school that I had always been interested in. I loved my art classes, but I never saw myself as being a fine artist. However, it has had a big role in the Pittsburgh community and I wanted to do something that combined my passion for serving the community and my love of the arts. I just didn’t know what that looked like at that time. I entered into undergrad with a business and art focus, thinking there had to be some way I could merge those together. I ended up switching my major to accounting because I had a little bit more interest in the finance part of it (business) and the rest just happened organically.

I started interning at accounting firms and I saw how many nonprofits there were in the Pittsburgh community and how many arts organizations there were. I also saw the need for finance directors. I always knew that Carnegie Mellon’s program was there from working with museums in my undergrad. So, I applied for the program and was accepted. From there on, I realized that there’s a really big part of nonprofit organizations that does the administration, the business side and finance, and there’s so much more to it than I could have ever imagined.”

We all kind of know why someone applies for a scholarship. You want to be able to continue your education and education can be expensive. But, what else drove you to apply for the scholarship?

“When I was an undergrad planning to go to grad school, I knew it was going to be a financial burden and It’s no secret nonprofit and arts organizations are not the highest paying industries. So, I was aware that it was going to be really tough and I needed to be strategic about where I applied and where I went and not to bury myself in too much debt. To do that I applied to a lot of different scholarships and I really was aware of the financial situation of each college I was applying to. 

Scholarships always have a mission behind them and you’re always looking to see if you fit that mission, and if the mission fits you. When applying, I would ask myself, “do I really want to represent this organization?” And that’s when I found the Pittsburgh Foundation and saw PYP was offering a scholarship, I was really excited about that opportunity because of how big of a presence Pittsburgh Foundation and PYP  has in Pittsburgh. I had heard all about it at my internships. There’s so many people I worked with that were a part of PYP and they went to all the networking events. I just thought it was such an awesome opportunity even to join PYP. 

Whether or not I got the scholarship, I just wanted to learn more about the organization through the application process. I wanted to interview and meet people from the organization. Building a connection was important to me. Honestly,  networking has always been really important to me and being able to meet other people who work in Pittsburgh and I have connections with has been a really cool opportunity for me.  When I received the scholarship it was so awesome to be recognized, but it was also a great way to get more involved in the organization and to take on a larger role in sharing the great work that the organization does.

What is it like being a young professional in Pittsburgh? 

“It’s a little overwhelming, I think sometimes, especially because I just graduated from my undergraduate this past year, and then jumped into graduate school during the pandemic and everything. I’ve been interning and going to school completely virtual. I went to a couple of virtual networking events in the fall, but it’s still been really neat to be in the Pittsburgh area. I grew up here. I have lived here my entire life. So, I really love keeping that connection.. I plan to stay here. That’s why it was so cool to be further involved with the community during this time. I’m really looking forward to actually being in the career world and building more connections from there, too.

What has been your favorite part of all of your experience? 

“This past year I  started interning at Steeltown Entertainment Project , which is a small film organization in Pittsburgh. And, I finally was able to get to do nonprofit finance and development, with grant writing, and that has been so exciting to finally see all the pieces of the puzzle come together and everything in Pittsburgh, too. It’s an organization that’s so focused on Pittsburgh.

We keep talking about the arts, but to the public, most of the arts have stopped in Pittsburgh due to the pandemic. So, what are you most looking forward to when those arts come back? 

That’s a tough one and, you know, it’s been so fascinating to see how much everything has changed. I mean, the organization I work with now is fully remote. Being able to start in that environment has been interesting, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how organizations rebound. I think it’s fascinating to see and be a part of all these organizations influencing changes in the law and society virtually.

What kind of benefits could this virtual reality bring to your career and industry? How do you see it impacting your work?

“I think things are transitioning virtually and I’ve definitely seen this through school and my internships. More people are getting involved in organizations, especially younger people. I think that’s a huge benefit with everything going on line.  We’re seeing more engagement from younger people, because most younger people are on social media and all these organizations that probably never had a huge presence online before the pandemic now have a huge social media presence. With COVID, they were forced to go online, but it has been creating more  recognition  for these organizations. 

Going virtual has also enabled us to be more inclusive and get more people involved than before. I know personally, I probably would never have been able to go to school and still “do my life” if things weren’t virtual. Commuting back and forth to the school, the schedule, and then the internship…. I think the virtual world has opened up more opportunities there. 

I think the cons are obviously, especially for organizations that are more in-person and in-person based. The organization I intern at, Steeltown Entertainment Project, used to have film screenings, and film education for students, which has been shut down since last March.  For so many people, in-person is so important, especially the students we serve. Being in-person is critical to developing relationships, friendships, and learning. 

We’re transitioning back to in-person education in the summer, but I know we’re going to see a lot more hesitation from students, as well as social anxieties. Students have not had the opportunity to  socialize with anyone for over a year and it’s going to have a huge impact going forward. But, I am hopeful as we transition back into the “real world” of in-person events, we will be able to get through the challenges together as a community.”

As you can see, Katie is on the right track and making a huge difference in the Pittsburgh community. She is a highly motivated individual who wants to build a life and career in Pittsburgh and we could not be more proud to support her mission to build the arts community from the back office forward. We wish you the best on your journey, Katie!

Interested in learning more about the PYP scholarship? Visit pyp.org/scholarship to learn more. 

If you or your organization would like to support striving young professionals and their commitment to higher education,  join us on Saturday, August 28, 2021 or sponsor our 2021 Pittsburgh Young Professionals Golf Outing at Quicksilver Golf Club. All proceeds benefit the PYP Scholarship.

Authored by the PR Committee

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