Allegheny Sophomore Makes a Splash in the Pool and in the Classroom

There are three areas that Allegheny College sophomore Emily Spitz is passionate about: her academics, swimming and singing, and she says she is excited to be able to continue to pursue those interests on campus, even during the ongoing pandemic.

Spitz, a biochemistry major on the pre-med track — “I especially enjoy learning about genetics,” she says — with a double minor in psychology and Spanish, is from Jamestown, New York. She excelled as a high school student both academically and in co-curricular activities.

Allegheny College sophomore Emily Spitz.
Allegheny College sophomore Emily Spitz.

She graduated as the salutatorian of Jamestown High School in 2019. She has been a competitive swimmer for 13 years, including 11 seasons with the Jamestown YMCA Jets and six varsity seasons with Jamestown High School. “My hometown is very close to Chautauqua Lake, where I spent a lot of my time growing up,” Spitz says. “This is really where my passion for the water began. I love to swim and spend my days boating.” She is currently swimming distance freestyle at Allegheny.

Spitz also received the James Bennett Porter Prize in 2020, which is awarded annually to the student who has earned the highest average in scholarship during their first year at Allegheny. Her GPA is currently a 4.0. She is a Doane Scholar and a Distinguished Alden Scholar.

“I chose Allegheny because of the tight-knit community feeling,” she says. “I love that there is an opportunity to get to know your classmates and professors. I also loved that I wasn’t forced to give up any of my passions. I am still able to take classes outside of my major, swim and sing.”

Spitz chose to stay on campus during the fall 2020 semester and plans to return to campus for the spring 2021 semester. “The hybrid learning environment is certainly an adjustment. It is not always easy, as it requires more time in front of screens and making my own schedule, but I learn best in the classroom with my professors and peers,” she says.

“My favorite spot on campus is definitely GFC (Grounds for Change). The environment is my relaxing happy place, especially looking out over the Gator Quad with a cup of coffee or tea,” Spitz adds.

Brad Hersh, associate professor of biology and biochemistry and Spitz’s academic adviser, says “her performance at Allegheny has been really impressive. She completed both semesters of organic chemistry, courses that students can sometimes find very challenging, in her first year, and has just finished physical chemistry, often a course filled with senior biochemistry majors, in the first semester of her sophomore year.”

Emily Spitz swims the distance freestyle at Allegheny.
Emily Spitz swims the distance freestyle at Allegheny.

“Emily is an excellent student who makes learning look easy,” says Alice Deckert, professor of chemistry who taught the physical chemistry class. “She was one of the top students in the class and always came with an upbeat attitude ready to solve the problems that I set out for the class each day. Her energy and enthusiasm were infectious.”

Besides academics, Spitz says she is thankful that the Allegheny swimming and diving team has been able to practice occasionally during the pandemic. “We were able to have some swim practices and one intrasquad meet where we swam one practice pod at a time. There weren’t any dual meets this semester and the conference championship has been canceled for the year, but I am hoping to have some dual meets in the spring,” she says.

Spitz is a part of fraternity and sorority life at Allegheny as a member of the Mu Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta. “In the upcoming semester, I will hold a position in the chapter as HR director, and I am very excited for that,” she says. She is also a part of the Global Citizen Scholars Cohort III and the Women’s Ensemble choir at Allegheny.

“Coming into Allegheny, I set a goal for myself to enjoy my time as a student here,” says Spitz. “I am trying to enjoy every activity that I get the opportunity to be a part of and make lasting bonds while also succeeding in the classroom. I have a goal to graduate summa cum laude and get into a medical school.”