“How did you get here?” This is often the first question I’m asked when someone finds out I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. Occasionally, I ask myself the same question. Driving seven hours away from the only thing I knew as “home” was not an easy task. Now as a junior this year, I find myself calling Wittenberg home. It’s hard to imagine leaving this place after graduation in 2020, but I’m excited to see what the future has in store for me.
While in high school, I shadowed my dentist and knew right away that’s what I wanted to do. So, while looking for a new school, I knew I wanted one with a great science department, specifically biology. Initially, I knew nothing about Wittenberg; in fact, Wittenberg found me first. During my senior year of high school, the Wittenberg golf coach discovered me on a sports-recruiting website. Many schools recruited me and had several of the things I was looking for but not everything I wanted: a top-rated science and biology department, a well-established and high-preforming golf program with a top-notch coach, a beautiful campus, friendly people, and excellent access to faculty and staff. One school met all these criteria which made Wittenberg seem great on paper. After taking a tour of the school, meeting the coach and most of the women’s golf team in person, Wittenberg sealed the deal.
The golf team has been my family ever since I stepped on campus. My teammates have not only pushed me to be better on the course but in the classroom as well. Because I was busy playing three sports in high school, I had already developed some time management skills. However, the intense schedule of golf as a fall and spring sport has successfully taught me to fine tune these skills and use my time as efficiently as possible.
Once I had adjusted to college life, I immediately wanted to get involved. In the spring of my first year, I decided to participate in formal sorority recruitment and after a very difficult decision, joined Gamma Phi Beta. During my sophomore year, I decided to run for House President. Many of the women I was running against were upperclassmen, so it was a huge honor for me to be selected as president by my peers. Although the position has not been easy, I have learned more about my character as well as how to properly handle tough situations and conversations. I’ll be able to use these experiences at Wittenberg to help me in my career. I’ve also built relationships with some fun and amazing women that will last far beyond my time at Witt.
Research has been one of the most surprising and fun things I’ve gotten involved in on campus. In high school, I never would have thought it would be possible to do research as an undergraduate. But like being recruited for golf, this opportunity found me: at the beginning of my sophomore year, I was asked by one of my friends from First Year Seminar (FYS) if I’d be interested in joining Dr. Jay Yoder’s lab. At first, I was hesitant because I didn’t know what I would be doing, but the more I learned about the professor, the lab itself, and the impact the research was having on the environment, the more I couldn’t wait to get started.
The research that we are doing now focuses on the winter tick, a relatively small tick that is capable of killing very large moose. Our research focuses on ways to control the tick population that is currently decimating moose populations in New England and Canada. This all started when Dr. Peter Pekins at the University of New Hampshire contacted Dr. Yoder about helping to save the moose, and from there it has taken off. We receive all of our samples from Dr. Pekins in New Hampshire and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. All of the projects that we work on in the lab are published with students as co-authors on primary research articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals such as the International Journal of Acarology, Alces, and Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases. We have also started a High School Outreach Program, where we travel to high schools and present our research on moose conservation to students in science classes. We’ve also designed bookmarks that we pass out to students at these presentations. A website, www.witticklab.com, makes all our research accessible in one convenient place.
The research we’ve been performing has been a wonderful experience that will definitely pay off. While this work has been both interesting and difficult, Dr. Yoder has helped me manage my academics to be sure that I stay on track with my goal of acceptance into dental school. There are not many schools like Wittenberg where an underclassman can get involved with high-impact research and have an important faculty member help them navigate the academic waters of graduate school. Hopefully, this research will set me apart from other candidates by having peer-reviewed journal publications as an undergraduate, allowing me to come one step closer to achieving my dream of becoming a dentist.
In addition to performing research, leading a sorority, and participating in golf, I am involved in Student Leader Fellows and the University Hearing Board. At another larger institution, I would probably not have all of these great opportunities that Wittenberg can provide. The community at Wittenberg has allowed me to thrive academically, athletically, and socially.
Kelli Fisher ‘20
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri