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avery nickerson, eos alumna

Alumni Spotlight: Avery Nickerson

Friday, October 21, 2016

What year did you graduate and with what Major/Minor? I graduated in May 2015 with a BA in Marine Science and a minor in Chemistry. What is your hometown? Leawood, Kansas Where are you now and what are you doing? I’m in New York City at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. I spent part of the last year working as a legal intern for Hillary For America and I am currently a legal intern for the Innocence Project. What was your favorite thing about dept/usd? My favorite thing about USD was the Marine Science department. My favorite thing about the Marine Science department was everything: the professors, my classmates, the classes, and the fieldtrips. I have never met anyone that compares to the professors I had during my time at USD. Their dedication, passion, and enthusiasm are unmatched. They brought us donuts for study sessions, came in on weekends to help us review for finals, planned exciting fieldtrips, helped us plan for the future, and, most importantly, took the time to get to know us (the students) as individuals. The Marine Science professors truly care about each students’ success and growth. I specifically remember coming into a professor’s office after receiving a less than ideal grade and he helped me work through every single problem until I understood my mistakes. Moreover, I could see he was just as concerned about my performance on the exam as I was and that he genuinely wanted to help me improve- I will never forget that meeting. I wish my words could do these amazing people justice. My classmates were absolutely fantastic. They were diverse, interesting, intelligent, creative, and kind. I truly believe I had the best graduating class ever. We studied together, worked on projects together, and hung out outside of class. We were a group of friends who cheered each other on, laughed with each other, and cried when we had to say goodbye after graduation. I still keep in contact with many of my classmates. I know that each and every one of them will do amazing things.  The classes and the field trips were engaging, challenging, and enriching. Most of what I learned about science, I learned in the field. The USD Marine Science department’s commitment to hands-on learning is what makes it unique. My favorite memories from undergrad all are from our fieldtrips: camping in the desert, dropping grabs off the side of a boat, snorkeling around Mission Bay, kayaking in La Jolla cove, and getting to hold a live horn shark (this is easily my favorite memory). Words cannot express how grateful I am that I chose to study Marine Biology at USD. How did your degree from Environmental and Ocean Sciences (or MARS) help prepare you for what you are doing? The great thing about the MARS degree is that it is incredibly inclusive- students learn chemistry, biology, geology, geochemistry, ecology, oceanography, physics, policy, public speaking, etc. On a logistical level, the subject matter that falls under the MARS umbrella qualified me to take the Patent Bar Exam in order to become a patent agent/patent law attorney (which is one of my ultimate goals). On a broader scale, my MARS degree helped me develop the skills necessary to think critically, come up with creative solutions, and ask thoughtful questions. Because I learned to develop and conduct experiments during my time at USD, I was trained to think in a logical, deliberate, and novel way. Both of my legal internships specifically hired me because of my science background. Employers see my science degree and recognize that I will bring a unique perspective to their projects. I’ve especially used my tools and resources from MARS while working for the Innocence Project, where I work to find evidence to exonerate wrongly convicted people using DNA testing. My experience with reading scientific literature, developing experimental strategies, and paying close attention to detail has given me a better understanding of forensic science and DNA test results. Furthermore, I believe the rigorous and challenging course work prepared me for my 1L year. MARS taught me how to study effectively, discuss complex information, and develop working relationships with colleagues. What advice do you have for current undergraduates? Be open to change. You will have classes and professors that completely change your life, so be open to exploring new goals and career paths. Be interested. Even if you expect a class to be boring or think you won’t like the subject, give it a chance. Ask questions. A bad grade is not the end of the world. It is not a reflection of who you are or what you learned. The most important thing is working as hard as you can, learning both inside and outside the classroom, and truly taking in this experience. Get to know your professors. Seriously, they’re the best people. Take every opportunity presented to you. You never know where it will lead and what you will learn. Be present. These are four amazing years during which you will work hard, meet wonderful people, struggle, grow, create memories, and learn things that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.


Monday, October 10, 2016

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