Community College: Montgomery County Community College
Area of Study: Biology at Dickinson (earned departmental honors), Liberal Studies at Montgomery County Community College
Involvements: Karate Club, Outing Club, Rock Wall Monitor, Phi Beta Kappa
Why did you decide to enroll at a community college and then to pursue a liberal-arts education? And why Dickinson?
After having taken enough time away from school to get to know myself and appreciate that my abilities were worth cultivating, I realized that I was not fulfilling my potential. My choice to attend MontCo was after taking a forklift certification course and recognizing that I enjoyed the classroom and learning. When I chose to attend community college, I did so because of its relatively inexpensive cost and to be able to work while taking class. As I began my courses, I chose a liberal-arts education as a way of testing the waters. I wanted to get my hands into as many different aspects of learning and thought as possible in order to really see what enthralled me.
As I finished my associates degree, I discovered my passion—biology, which went hand in hand with my lifelong interest in animals, hiking, camping and traveling with my dog. I decided to attend Dickinson because my community college had a partnership that allowed for a simple transfer and a good source of financial aid. I realized Dickinson would allow me to continue to broaden my interests and keep dabbling in different aspects of my education. It also gave me the opportunity to challenge my intellect while taking all of my core courses at a higher institution. Its small size also attracted me, as my community college experience was full of smaller, discussion based courses and my personality is tailored to fewer, more meaningful and potent interactions on a more personal basis.
Is there a particular academic experience during your time at Dickinson that stands out as most meaningful/influential?
My most meaningful experience at Dickinson has certainly been my past year doing research with Professor Boback, pursuing honors in the major through the study of the biomechanics of ventilation of boa constrictors. I have been given the opportunity to maximize my potential and push my limits, and Professor Boback’s guidance and support have cultivated my learning into something much more than it has ever been before. He stimulates me to think and solve my own problems. He is helpful but allows me to make my own mistakes and guides me to discover the answer rather than simply showing me the way. His mentorship has helped me grow both personally and academically.
This research has allowed me to work in collaboration with both Professor Boback and Professor Zwemer, sharing ideas and brainstorming with people I admire, while being an equal contributor to the research. This has increased the intensity of my thirst for knowledge, giving me the experience to devise my own experiments and follow all the necessary steps to create a research project.
The ability to work on such a personal and close basis with professors of such caliber has given me perspective to see more of what I want out of my own academic career and what academia truly has to offer. It has re-inspired my learning by showing me that learning need not be tests and facts but more a desire to seek an answer and figuring out the means to do so.
How did your participation in extracurricular opportunities help you become integrated into the social community at Dickinson? And how were those extracurricular involvements critical to your Dickinson experience?
I am extremely grateful for my participation in extracurricular activities, as they definitely helped me integrate into the Dickinson community and have given me the chance to develop myself outside of an academic setting. Attending Dickinson itself was a risk, as I began to pursue something bigger than I anticipated I ever would.
Following that theme, I decided to try more new things when here, and that is how I joined the Karate Club. It has been integral to my sense of community here. Karate in particular is something I had not done before but had always wanted to, and it helped me to break out of my comfort zone and to build confidence in myself and my abilities. It also gave me a venue to meet many like-minded individuals that shared the same drive as me.
The other activity that really helped me integrate was the rock-climbing wall. I had been climbing for about a year and a half before attending Dickinson, and I have met some of my closest friends through it. Climbing, very much like the Karate Club, granted me a sense of inclusion and a network of people that share common interests, activities and outlooks on life. It also helped me to find my role in the college and to see where I fit into the social spectrum of Dickinson. Pursuit of these activities has helped to define a more holistic experience at Dickinson, and I simply would be at a loss without them.
How have you been influenced by the Dickinson network, and how do you plan to give back to the college as a member of the alumni community?
The Dickinson network has influenced me in many ways. My advisor, Norm Jones, has been an amazing mentor and person to turn to for support. He has never steered me wrong and only pushes me to things for my own good. I am eternally grateful for his personal interest and care for me. He pushed me to attend Leadershape, where I met another great person in my network, Pavan Purswani, who has become a confidant and great supporter. Norm also pushed me to pursue my desire to work with Professor Boback, even while Professor Boback was on sabbatical. Professor Boback and Professor Zwemer have both given me their personal recommendations as well as ideas to pursue more education and the support to do so.
As an alumnus, I hope to be able to help other Dickinsonians to recognize their potential and to strive for greatness, for only you can make the effort to be willing to work as hard as is necessary to succeed. I hope to motivate and inspire others to chase their goals as well as to help Dickinsonians network and share contacts within my field.
What are your plans for post-graduation?
After graduation I plan to stay in Carlisle for a year to work and save money before attending graduate school. I want to take some time off to enjoy myself and pursue my interests, such as climbing and potentially becoming EMT certified. I am hoping to work with either a local alternative education school (Yellow Breeches Educational Center) or possibly in a research facility. I will be studying for the GREs to hopefully attend a graduate program in some form of organismal or evolutionary biology.
I also plan to be able to do another road trip to visit Alaska, the last of the states I have not been to.