Meet Jennifer Miller
Minor: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Radford, Va.
What unites the Wake Forest community? “Pro Humanitate,” says Jenny. “Students work hard to pursue passions that contribute to the individual, community and our place in the world.” After graduation, Jenny plans to focus on career opportunities in environmental conservation.
Q: How have you changed since arriving on campus?
A: When I came to Wake Forest, I had reservations about trying new things by myself. It didn’t take me too long to realize that time would continue to pass by despite of whether or not I participated. I learned how to take advantage of all the resources available at the university by attending club meetings, conducting research with faculty and going to events with speakers. Throughout this process, my social network expanded. I met many peers, faculty and staff who contributed to my happiness and success at Wake Forest.
Q: Explain your research.
A: During my junior year, I conducted research with Professor Clifford Zeyl’s biology group to study evolution experiments using yeast. Shortly after this, I developed a passion for conservation biology and began research with Professor Miles Silman’s lab during my senior year. Our work focused on how to improve toxic soil conditions that result from illegal gold mining in Peru. I learned how to weld and cut metal to design a biomass reactor to make biochar, a form of activated carbon that can be used to evaluate soil reconditioning for high levels of metal mercury. During the spring of my senior year, I advanced this research on a small scale so that students can study biochar in the future.
Q: What was your favorite extracurricular activity?
A: I assisted with the development of a new course, Women, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability. I had the opportunity to work with faculty members and community leaders of the Cobblestone Farmers Market to educate students on food traditions and food justice, regional economies, cultural diversity and environmental stewardship. Throughout this process, I gained an immense amount of knowledge regarding the various methods of addressing food insecurity in Winston-Salem. This experience taught me that having access to healthy food is a fundamental right for all people, and that it is possible to obtain this access through the cultivation of indigenous seeds and protection of the local environment.
Q: Who was your mentor? Your biggest cheerleader?
A: Professor Lynn Book served as a mentor to me. She taught me the value of incorporating creativity into everyday activities and helped me learn the importance of female entrepreneurship and empowerment in society. Professor Book demonstrated kindness and consideration by listening to my concerns. She saw me not only as a student but as an intellectually curious young woman. She provided the encouragement, knowledge and laughter I needed while developing my passions that will continue long after my time at Wake Forest.
Q: Describe your study abroad experience.
A: I studied at the Manu Learning Center research station in Peru during the summer of 2013. The focus of my program was to learn about the effects of deforestation on the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest. I lived in a grass hut in the foothills of the Andes Mountains with minimal access to modern first-world luxuries and technologies. My days consisted of hiking in small teams and exploring plant and animal species. During the evenings, I would eat simple dinners of rice and potatoes and share stories with other students in the program who came from universities around the world.
Q: Best advice you were given during your four years at Wake Forest?
A: Professor Lucas Johnston, my professor for my first environmental course, shared advice that has helped with the way I approach making decisions. He said, “every dollar you spend is your vote for something.” This shows the importance of being cognizant about where your goods come from and where your money is going when you purchase a product or service. In modern day society, we do not always consider which systems we perpetuate by investing in cheaper goods such as food and which values may be supported above others.
Q: Where is the one place on campus you will miss most and why?
A: I will miss spending time in the Campus Grounds coffee shop. It provided a comfortable place to study with friends between classes.
Q: Your best advice for an incoming first-year student?
A: Keep an open mind and take advantage of all of the resources available to you as a student at Wake Forest. Explore different clubs and classes. Visit the Writing Center, Office of Personal and Career Development, Reynolda Village and the surrounding Winston-Salem community. The people you meet both on and off-campus will challenge you in different ways. These experiences will help you become a well-rounded individual and teach you to think about your future from different perspectives.