EdusalsaDiscover Your Stanford
  • Posted 7 years ago


My Stanford Journey

Where my passion leads me.

By Katie Kirsch

Before I came to Stanford, I knew two things: that I loved to write, and that I loved to film. Pencil in hand, I crafted a vast diversity of literary works, ranging from creative nonfiction to screenplay writing. One day, I would be exploring a new plot twist for my fictional novel on underwater species. The next, I would be envisioning myself a pioneer in the culinary industry, detailing my restaurant’s menu and architectural layout head-to-toe. I fell in love with dialogue, emotional expression, motivational theory, and the Oxford comma, all at once.

When it came to cinematography, I found beautiful potential in my every day surroundings. Wherever I went, I would tuck my camera under the crook of my arm with the same instinctive gesture as slipping a cellphone into a back pocket. I found the world begging to be filmed at every turn, but inspiration especially struck in the editing room, where I realized any single roll of footage held the potential to tell a million different stories. With just a camera or pen, I had the power to add unique value to the world that had never been seen before.

My fascinations in the literary and visual worlds intertwined in college, where I found a home in the Stanford Spearheading Stanford’s top design group for social entrepreneurship, I especially invested my efforts in shaping the future of education for the better. Along the way, I even found myself majoring in an engineering field, adding a technical foundation to my creative energy.

Film and writing turned out to be cut from the same fabric -- that of telling stories and understanding people -- and the Product Design Engineering major both encapsulated the creative expression I had learned to love, as well as opened my eyes to an industry where I could leverage my talents for good.

Over the years, I've followed a diversity of design-inspired directions, from learning the Adobe Creative Suite, to logging hours in the Stanford Product Realization Lab with physical product manufacturing, to designing and developing virtual world experiences in the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

The most rewarding stage of my journey, however, happened when I co-founded “Girls Driving for a Difference,” an organization dedicated to empowering young women across the nation to become leaders of social change. With a team of Stanford women, I embarked on a 14-week long cross-country road-trip in an RV, bringing our design and leadership workshops to over 1200 middle-school girls from diverse communities across the map.

The key to our leadership curriculum was to flip girls’ mindsets about their futures to motivate more meaningful reflection. For example, instead of asking girls, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, we challenged them, “What kind of change do you want to create in the world, and how can you begin to achieve that dream today?” No matter how long my day would be on the road, hearing about their goals would keep me driving forward.

Now, as a Stanford senior, the doors feel ambiguously open for next year. Wherever my passion leads me, however, I know a few things for sure: there will always be more blank pages to fill, moments to film, and opportunities to make the world an even more inspiring place tomorrow than it is today.

In collaboration with Tau Beta Pi

Tau Beta Pi is the only honor society representing the entire engineering profession across the nation. Their chapter at Stanford strives to promote academic excellence, leadership, and continued service to the larger engineering community. They host events and organize initiatives including peer mentoring, K-12 outreach, alumni panels, CEO dinners, project fairs and more. For more info, check out

Katie Kirsch

Katie ('16) is a Bay Area local and studied Product Design Engineering at Stanford. She has a passion for using design to create social impact and shape the future of learning. In her free time, she loves to create graphics on Adobe Illustrator, write, and produce films.

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