Katie Maloney ’04

Major: Outdoor Leadership
Work Crew: Cafeteria, Post Office
Service: Special Education Class Tutor/Mentor at Owen Middle School, Swim Coach for Special Olympics
Current Job: Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

(L-R) Sawyer, daughter Grace, & Katie
(L-R) Sawyer, daughter Grace, & Katie

Katie Maloney came to Warren Wilson College knowing she liked science but feeling that something was missing in terms of capturing her enthusiasm. Prior to Wilson, she had taken biology and chemistry classes, but it wasn’t until taking chemistry professor John Brock’s environmental health class that she found her true interest at the intersection of human behavior and the environment.

While immersing herself in academics, work and service at the College, Katie gained mentors and experiences that would further encourage her to broaden the way she saw herself and who she wanted to be. These experiences included a trip with Jim Lauer, former director of student services, to Vietnam. “I already loved to travel,” Katie recalls, “but it was here I fell in love with Asia and deepened my understanding of how culture impacts human behavior.” This valuable insight would later serve as the foundation of her career and outlook on life.

“While at the time, I felt I was doing community service at Owen Middle School. I realize now that those children and teachers had more impact on me than I could possibly have provided them.”

Having grown up in an academically structured home, Katie never gave much thought to non-traditional career paths until meeting outdoor leadership professors Ed Raiola and Marty O’Keefe, who allowed and even encouraged her to pursue her combined interests. She credits Lauer and distinguished volunteer Marilyn Eichman for being a source of great strength and keeping her sane during hectic times. Once she set her sights on graduate school, Brock and Raiola wrote powerful recommendations for her master’s and doctorate program applications. “I can’t thank them enough,” Katie said. She feels that were it not for these five individuals, she never would have had the “confidence or ability” to try out so many careers.

“The mentors I had at [the College] shaped my ability to live the life I
have and love.”

After graduating from Wilson, Katie worked as a university professor in Jiao Zhoua, China; a cave ecologist in West Virginia; and an EMT and assistant director of education at Pathfinder Ranch Outdoor School in Southern California. Through her work in outdoor leadership, she found a passionate interest in how human behavior and the environment combine and result in human health problems. She became particularly interested in how public policy is then used to protect both human and environmental health.

“I have loved every moment of my career to date. I have been able to
travel with reckless abandon and try out many smaller careers
knowing that there is no one way to live.”

Katie earned her master’s degree in environmental policy and management from Johns Hopkins University and her doctorate from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. While working on her dissertation with the Peruvian Ministry of Health on the spray campaigns for a vector-borne disease, Chagas Disease, Katie found an acute interest in vector diseases and how humans could control their own risk. During this time she also had fallen in love with living abroad and with a fellow public health specialist whose focus was on HIV/AIDS and orphan health. Together, the pair decided to relocate to Uganda where their interests could coincide.

Grace at play
Grace at play

Working with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Katie moved to Mbale, Uganda, (and later Kampala and Gulu) where she helped to develop and later oversee a portfolio of research studies geared toward improving malaria diagnostic technology availability in the public and private sector. She worked throughout Africa and was able to use her outdoor leadership degree to its fullest as her efforts involved finding innovative ways to train and capacitate health care workers on malaria diagnosis and treatment with limited resources.

In 2015, Katie left the field and joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. With the new job, Katie, her partner, and their daughter moved back to the United States and found a new home in Seattle. Katie has joined the Pneumonia Team, working to shape investments aimed at improving access to life-saving pneumonia and diarrhea commodities. Pneumonia is one of the largest childhood killers worldwide, alongside malnutrition, malaria, and diarrhea. Katie works on the treatment-side of the team on projects to ensure children in high-burden, resource-poor settings have access to essential medicines.

“It has been an interesting transition from implementation to the donor world,” Katie said. “This new role has broadened my line of sight to both how innovative and creative people are in looking for solutions to challenging problems but also to the extent of the inequality in the world.”

Katie shared a favorite quote from Hellen Keller that has resonated with her: “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

By Mary Fields’16