McKenna, the Prayer Warrior and Algae Enthusiast!

“…but after NSO I was absolutely exhausted and overwhelmed and came to Chi Alpha’s ReFARMation Sunday and I was like, oh, this is lovely, so then I stayed”


C.A.S.S: How’re you doing Mckenna, our prayer warrior?

Good Brian!

C.A.S.S: Great, let’s set the ball rolling. Why don’t you just tell me a little bit about yourself, who you are, where you’re from, what’s your family’s like, background, anything, anything that comes into mind.

Okay. Um, I’m from a little suburb actually. Actually, no it’s not small. It’s a pretty big suburb, Chandler, in Phoenix, Arizona. I have two sisters. One older and she’s a senior at Harvey Mudd College, and one younger who is a sophomore in high school. So I’m a middle child.

C.A.S.S: So three girls?


C.A.S.S: Oh nice! And um, where did you live on campus this past year?

I lived in Wilbur in Soto, which is an all freshman dorm. And also I really like AL-GEE.

C.A.S.S: Who is Al-Gee? (I promise the organism did not come into mind)

Algae, It’s an organism. It’s an organism that it produces 70 percent of the world’s oxygen.

(And then the realisation dawns on me and then we both burst into laughter)

C.A.S.S: Oh Algae. Oh Algae. I get it now. So you were a freshman this past year right?


C.A.S.S: What drew you to Chi Alpha?

At the beginning of the year, I was looking for a Christian fellowship because Christianity is a very big part of my life. Uh, and I had this plan that I was going to try out all the different fellowships on campus, but after NSO I was absolutely exhausted and overwhelmed and came to Chi Alpha’s ReFARMation Sunday and I was like, oh, this is lovely, so then I stayed.

C.A.S.S: Okay. So you tried only Chi Alpha, right?


C.A.S.S: And how’s your experience been so far?

Amazing! I love Chi Alpha and I love the community and I love Glen and Paula and Sierra and all the leaders and I just love how the people here have encouraged me to grow and expand my faith and grow deeper and closer to God. It has been everything I dreamed of and more. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my free time at Stanford.

C.A.S.S: Wow. I’m glad you felt and still feel this way. I remember feeling this way during my freshman year. I didn’t used to come as often, but I was always happy to know that a community of Christians was there for me, So I’m glad. I’m glad that as a freshman you’re having this experience. Ok moving on so what are you interested in study and why?

Um, I’m really interested in chemical engineering. I am in the process of declaring. I love chemistry, yeah I really love chemistry, but I also really, really love algae. I want to study chemical engineering so I can learn how to scale up algae biofuels in an economically feasible, sustainable way. I am also interested in the intersection of chemical engineering and environmental engineering, specifically on how algae can provide food and cleanup wastewater. It’s my dream to apply engineering solutions to global development work. And if you couldn’t tell, I am a strong proponent of algae. It’s going to change the world.

C.A.S.S: Ok Ok Ok, we need to talk about this algae, like what sparked this interest in this specific organism?

Okay. So about five years ago, my grandpa was really into building outdoor fish ponds and so then I was like, okay, I’ll help you build one.

C.A.S.S: Awww grandfather granddaughter bonding time!.

And so then we built an outdoor fish pond and of course, because I’m from Arizona, it’s very hot, and so what showed up in the ponds?

Together: Algae!!

And so then me and my older sister were pulling out all the algae from the pond and wanted to try and burn it to see if we could make fuel.

C.A.S.S: Wait it burns?

Yeah, but you can extract the fuel better ways. And so then that basically started my science adventures during high school of seeing how algae can produce energy in a sustainable way that can ultimately be economically competitive with current gasoline prices.


It’s been an exciting journey, especially through hard times and good times, like learning how to praise God through it all. College, especially, has been a major time of growth for me. I feel like every quarter, God has shown me a different part of Himself”

C.A.S.S: Oh nice, let’s go back a bit to your family. So you grew up as Christian, right? Do you remember when you came to be saved per se?

So I actually can’t remember when I first learned about Jesus. I feel like I’ve always known who He was and what He’s done for me, but I officially accepted Him as my Lord and Savior when I was 13. I actually grew up Lutheran, but during high school my family switched to a non-denominational church. So then during high school there was also a significant time when I had a major encounter with Him that drastically changed my relationship with Him.

C.A.S.S: Oh nice and how would you characterize your journey with Him so far?

It’s been an exciting journey, especially through hard times and good times, like learning how to praise God through it all. College, especially, has been a major time of growth for me. I feel like every quarter, God has shown me a different part of Himself.

C.A.S.S: What has been some of the biggest challenges you’ve overcome in your freshman year?

Okay, well in fall quarter I climbed a roof and I slid down too fast and then ran into a wall and broke my fibula.

C.A.S.S: Oh my God, are you Okay?

(laughs)Yes, but I have a nice scar.

C.A.S.S: Omg, this is going to be a story of a lifetime.

Yeah and um, yeah, so I had surgery. It was week six after coming to Stanford. Um, but luckily my mom came, so that was a nice way to get my mom to come visit.

C.A.S.S: Oh-My-God wait how did that go? How did the surgery go? Was it a scary experience?

Yeah, I was really scared. I was also really mad at myself for going on top of a roof. I hadn’t done anything so stupid in my life before. But it was definitely a life changing and humbling experience, forcing me to rely on God even more. I feel like it really set the stage for my upcoming year at Stanford and how much I would need to look to God for absolutely everything.

C.A.S.S: Wow so did you take some time off school?

Nope. I only missed one day of classes.

C.A.S.S: Wow I’m really sorry to hear this, but I’m glad you’re feeling better now. So if there’s one thing you could have told your freshman self, what would that be?

Hmm, can I tell myself two things?

C.A.S.S: Yeah go ahead!

Ok, number one, don’t climb up roofs? And secondly, college goes by really fast. So don’t ever waste a day–ever.  

C.A.S.S: Don’t ever waste a day. That’s a good one. So you know we have so many incoming freshmen who are excited about Stanford. What advice would you give them as speaking from the perspective of someone who just went through that year?

I’ll say try not to get too overwhelmed by the amount of different things that are happening at once. Everyone finds their niche, so don’t worry about other people. I strongly encourage them to find a community they love and feel at home in, like Chi Alpha has been for me. Also, really invest time in forming friendships with others because I feel like the friendships I have been blessed with has been one of the most valuable parts of coming to Stanford.

I have grown so much this year just by talking to people, living and struggling alongside them, and learning from them. When you open yourself up to new experiences and new people, letting God lead the way, He will surely give you many surprises.

C.A.S.S: Final question for the day. What is your favorite Bible verse?

Oh, I am ready for this. Psalm 39: 4-5.


“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
   and the number of my days;
   let me know how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
   the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
   even those who seem secure.”


It goes along with my don’t waste a day theme.

C.A.S.S: Wow. Thank you so much for sharing. Ooh! Last question, are you dating, considering dating, searching, exploring,etc?

(laughs)…I’m not dating anyone right now.

C.A.S.S: Are you open?

Yeah sure why not.

C.A.S.S: Thank you so much McKenna!