Students create company to promote safety confidence among students on campus


Romita Das | Senior Staff Photographer

Katelyn Gallo, founder of the Underdog App.

By Gabriella Garvin, Staff Writer

For those who have had to walk home on a dark night in fear of danger, Katie Gallo has created a solution.

Gallo, a sophomore data analytics and business information systems major, is the CEO of Underdog, a student-created start-up that promotes self-defense and education against sexual assault. The new company offers classes and events that aim to teach students self defense techniques and spread awareness of resources on campus.

Gallo said after feeling a lack of safety amongst women on campus, she wanted an outlet to better equip herself in times of danger.

“I realized freshman year that I wanted resources to protect women, physically or emotionally. Going through that year, I realized through stories from friends and my own experiences walking on campus that I never felt safe in relationships or my daily life,” Gallo said. “I wanted to create a fun learning space for women to feel safe.”

The classes aim to teach students how to protect themselves rather than react to danger. Gallo said she hopes the classes offered through Underdog give women a sense of confidence in public.

“The end goal for all of them is for women to come out of the classes and feel like they are confident in keeping themselves safe,” Gallo said. “I know it doesn’t eliminate the problem of others acting in a disrespectful way towards women, but at least if that does happen, women know what their goals are, that are not only reactive but preventative to themselves.”

The first part of each of their classes features an informative session with examples of dangerous experiences other people have had, followed by a self-defense lesson instruction led by two instructors from an outsourced company.

Mackie Mayo, a junior marketing and supply chain management major, participated in the pilot program for Underdog in November. She said the classes taught her a series of moves and statistics that she thought were really helpful.

“It was a really good experience. Half of it was dedicated to learning actual self defense techniques,” Mayo said. “We learned arm moves to keep people away and learned what the right side of your body is when people are coming at you. We even got into some kicks and such, and it was really helpful.”

Mayo said she thinks all college-aged women should consider taking these classes, as instances of assault have occurred recently on campus.

“I would definitely recommend this to college-aged women, because I feel through my experience, we’re the most susceptible to attacks like the ones that we would be fighting against in these classes, and learn to fight against,” Mayo said. “It’s disappointing how much you hear about things happening, it feels like every weekend, and a class like this would prepare you a bit better for those situations.”

Gallo said Underdog hopes to expand its network to Greek life organizations over the span of this semester.

“We’re switching gears a little bit this month to look more towards Greek life right now,” Gallo said. “We decided to target sororities first, which is where a lot of sexual assault cases happen on campus, and it’s where a large community of women are.”

Gallo said although Underdog is geared toward women right now, they hope to expand to all genders.

“We’re hoping that Underdog will be a tool for everyone, regardless of gender at some point. There’s courses tailored to women specifically first, but then also we would like to have classes for men in the future so that we’re not just putting a Band-Aid over the solution,” Gallo said. “Instead we want to get down to the root of the cause.”

Diana James, a senior marketing and global management major who was also at the pilot program, said the class taught her a lot more than just technique.

“I think it was a very enlightening class, just because they were not only teaching us the self defense methods,” James said. “They were telling us some statistics and it was eye-opening to hear the realities of it because I have always felt somewhat safe. I left the class feeling more safe with everything they taught us.”

Gallo said it’s important to her that Underdog provides instruction on not only physical but mental protection techniques. She said she wants the classes to allow participants to portray confidence rather than fear or vulnerability to attackers.

“Underdog is holistic protection. It’s not just learning self defense and how to use pepper spray and your body, but also how to use your mind and make sure you’re confident in yourself,” Gallo said. “Your posture when you’re walking actually has a huge effect on whether you’re going to be harassed or not. It’s a toolkit of resources about everything like how you can protect yourself and your friends.”

Gallo said it is best for students to take self-defense classes sooner rather than later.

“You never know when you’re going to have a problem or a life threatening situation until you do and then it’s too late. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and to teach yourself how to protect yourself in a fun way,” Gallo said. “Go with a group of friends and it’s like taking a fitness class, but you will come out of it with a lot more confidence in yourself physically and mentally. Take some time and go before something bad happens.”