Bailey McNichol of State College, Pennsylvania, has always had a wide variety of interests. Not only is Bailey involved in research, sports and student organizations at UConn, but her vast interests also caused her to change her major multiple times. Now, Bailey is in her ninth semester at UConn, which she calls her “victory lap.” She plans to graduate in December with a dual degree in natural resources and the environment with a concentration in sustainable forest resources and Spanish. She is also a Difference Makers scholarship recipient. Here is what she said about her experiences as a CAHNR student.
What attracted you to UConn? Originally, I came to UConn because of the highly-ranked education program. I wanted to be a teacher. However, I absolutely love CAHNR. Since there are only thirty people in my concentration, I have formed close relationships with all of my professors and peers. That’s not an experience that you can find anywhere else.
Why did you choose your particular major? At first, I was on the pre-education track because I wanted to be a secondary earth science teacher. However, I decided I wanted to study the sciences more in-depth, and I switched to environmental science. Later, I chose natural resources and the environment (NRE) with a concentration in sustainable forest resources, since I have always had a passion for forestry.
My initial interest in forestry began in high school. I competed in Envirothon, a natural resource environmental education program in which five high school students compete using their knowledge in five different topic areas. I competed in forestry and really enjoyed it. At UConn, I love the field-based component of NRE. I am a very outdoorsy person, and in many of my classes, we go outside and do hands-on work.
In addition, I studied abroad in Spain during the spring of 2013. This led me to add Spanish as my second major.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? Being on the UConn Women’s Rugby Football Club for four years was definitely the most influential part of my UConn career. I played rugby in high school and immediately became involved at UConn. I was instantly part of a community, and this helped me have a seamless transition into college. Through rugby, I had a lot of personal growth. I was the captain of the team last fall, I learned time management skills, and I improved as an athlete.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. I was a part of Husky Outreach for Leadership Development, Understanding, and Pride (HOLDUP!) for the last four years. This student-run organization facilitates leadership workshops for high school students around Connecticut. The workshops help students understand what leadership is and how they can be leaders in their own schools. It was great to meet high school students that were interested in leadership, and I wish that there was a similar program in my own high school. As a facilitator, I did not just give presentations to students, but I also worked with other HOLDUP! members to continuously improve the workshop material. In addition, I participate in professional development workshops and training.
During the summer of 2014, I was a research assistant on a Stormwise tree biomechanics project. Dr. Mark Rudnicki, a former associate professor in NRE, led the project. The project involved removing trees to see how other trees adapt to having more space around them. Over the course of the summer, I became involved in many different aspects of the research. I helped set up field sites and processed the data that was collected. In addition, I worked on the human dimensions portion of the project by helping develop a survey instrument that gauged people’s opinions on the project. Through this, I learned about the Institutional Review Board process and how to ask ethical questions in surveys. It was awesome to be involved in so many parts of the project and learn about the entire research process.
Since I enjoyed this research so much, I was motivated to apply for my own research grant. I applied to the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, funded by the National Science Foundation. This past summer, I worked at Oklahoma State University on a stream restoration research project. I enjoyed expanding my horizons outside of forestry and exploring the more engineering-based side of this project. My experience was difficult, but rewarding. In addition, it convinced me that I want to keep studying and apply to graduate schools for next year.
What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? Time management. I have many interests and don’t like to focus on just one thing. In addition to HOLDUP!, rugby and my school work, I am a manager at the Student Recreation Center and I tutor students. Needless to say, I have become acclimated to not sleeping very much. However, personally, I would rather do everything I am interested in than get a lot of sleep.
When do you expect to graduate? What then? I expect to graduate in December 2015. At the end of January, I am going to Chile through a program called GeoVisions. I will live with a family in Santiago and tutor them in English in exchange for room and board. Even though I am not majoring in education anymore, I still love teaching. After the two month GeoVisions program, I plan to participate in the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program in Chile. In total, I hope to spend about eight months in Chile. After that, I will hopefully be able to start graduate school in the fall in a forestry-related field.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I have been a vegetarian for my entire life. It will be interesting to see how this works when I am in Chile, where I know meat is a big part of the culture.
In addition, I was excited to learn that I was selected as a recipient of the Difference Makers Scholarship this year. Because I am an out-of-state student, I found coming to UConn to be a financially difficult decision. This scholarship is a great help in lessening my student loans. In addition, it is a personal honor and reaffirms that the hard work that I have put into my academic studies has made a meaningful contribution to CAHNR.