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Katy Nesbitt is Pitt’s 2023 undergraduate commencement speaker
Katy Nesbitt, a Pitt alumna and the first American woman to referee at the World Cup, will be the University of Pittsburgh’s 2023 undergraduate commencement speaker. The ceremony takes place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 30, at the Petersen Events Center.
Nesbitt (A&S ’15G) says she learned to practice resilience while performing research in chemistry professor Adrian Michael’s lab during graduate school in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.
“In science, it often doesn't work out when you’re studying something — trying to discover something new or have a new hypothesis. Refereeing is also not the easiest job. You’re often hated by half the fans and not well-liked by some of the players, so finding a way to work through these struggles and bounce back is a skill that works well in both fields,” said Nesbitt.
“You do the best you can, but not everything you do is successful in science or refereeing,” she added.
Her postgraduate work involved researching analytical methods for chemical measurements in the brain. For most of her adult life, Nesbitt juggled her duelling passions of soccer and chemistry, but in 2019, she traded her beakers for cleats and left her assistant professorship at Towson University to officiate full-time. Her first stop: the Women’s World Cup in France.
Today, Nesbitt is a decorated assistant referee and the holder of many firsts, including the first woman named a Major League Soccer assistant referee of the year and the first American woman to referee at the World Cup played by men.
For Pitt graduates embarking on firsts, whether the first in their family to complete college or those forging new paths in their discipline, Nesbitt said the key is to have confidence in what you know.
“Many times in my career, I realized that I shouldn’t try to be exactly like the male referee that's gone before me, or I can't do it exactly how somebody else has done it. I have to do it my way. That's what's going to make me perform the best. That's what's going to make me happy,” she said.
Another first for Nesbitt is delivering a commencement speech, where she’s looking forward to sharing even more lessons from the lab and the field.
— Nichole Faina, images courtesy of Katy Nesbitt