One of my favorite stories to tell is how I've moved 16 times (see map below for places I've been). Most people when they hear this begin apologizing, as if I had just told them I lost a pet. It was the awkward balance between, “That sucks,” and “I have no idea what to say right now.” When I was younger, it was fun to tell people my story. I always felt moving was something that made me unique. But, at the time, I secretly loathed moving. I’d see a U-haul truck and cringe. It wasn't until I was much older and attending college that I started to look at those experiences as something positive. My childhood produced a curiosity within me. Travelling all the time allowed me to question and observe those around me. As I've grown up and began to appreciate the experiences I had as a child, I've realized the consistency of nature. This consistency and desire to improve what we have led me to the LAKES REU.
"Nikki, I'm not going to get it. I'm not going to get my hopes up." I was sitting in front of my computer, fingers on the keys, debating whether or not I should fill out the application for the LAKES REU program that was going to be offered this summer. I'd been talking about the opportunity for months and about how much it would mean to me. Like most Menomonie residents, I could easily recognize the lake as a problem and I wanted to be a part of the solution.
"Cassie, just fill it out!" Nikki, my roommate/sister, called to me as she sat on my bed behind me. "You're going to get it, I know you are."
So I began to type. Hours later, I was still proofreading and Nikki, who had slipped away at some point, returned to my doorway, "Have you submitted it yet?" I shook my head not taking my eyes off the screen. I wanted the application to be perfect. She sighed, "You're going to do great, just submit it." So I did.
A couple weeks later I got the news that I had been accepted. I was ecstatic. I called all of my family and told them the news between squeals and tears. I couldn't believe I had been chosen to be a part of this project.
So here we are. Ten undergraduate students from around the United States and our respective advisers about a fourth of the way through the project. I've learned so much in so many ways in the short time we've all known each other. I've learned about the causes of pollution in the lake; how to conduct and analyze a social network; survey design; and the possible solutions to bring the lake back to health. But I've also learned some things that I never expected to. I've learned a lot about myself as a person and what I'm capable of not only on an academic level but also on a personal level.
Some things that we haven't covered fully thus far are what are the past and present efforts that are taking place to clean up the lake? With that being said, we have attended a meeting to listen to others discuss the TMDL of the lake. This provided a huge amount of insight into what is being done but I still feel there is more to learn, which will come as we move through the program and become connected to community members.
As for the remainder of the program, Alison and I are conducting social network analysis of both local policymakers and farmers. This analysis will give us insight into the different attributes that key members possess, allowing us to understand and implement the solution. I'm very excited to dive into this project and can't wait to get out in the field and start issuing surveys.
I'm so happy and honored to have been chosen to be a part of this project. I'm having a great time learning in an interdisciplinary manner, alongside not only people I can call colleagues but also people I can call friends. Plus, if we’re counting the move into the dorm, that puts me at 17.