Q&A With Lydia Jefferson

Jefferson is a junior in environmental sciences

Why did you decide to come to the University of Missouri and major in environmental sciences? What do you enjoy about the program itself? The field of study?

I’ve wanted to come to Mizzou since I was in eighth grade, back when I wanted to be a fiction writer. Even though my interests shifted to STEM during high school, my admiration for Mizzou did not. I came in as a biochemistry major but switched to environmental sciences-water because I didn’t want to leave the home I found in CAFNR, but was struggling with my courses. I ultimately decided on environmental sciences after my mom advised me on how I have always been an advocate for climate justice and access to clean water. I love how hands-on my courses are, and I love that I understand the concepts I’m learning more than in biochemistry. I cannot stress enough how amazing it feels to not only understand the material, but to be able to explain it to other people! I feel more confident talking with others about science and my research.

How have you used resources in the CAFNR Academic Programs Office (student services, career services, advising, study abroad)? What was your experience like?  

I meet with my academic advisor at least once a semester to make sure I’m still on track for graduating in May 2022. I went to both CAFNR Career Fairs my freshman year, where I learned the qualities recruiters and graduate programs are looking for. I also went to quite a few events sponsored by the CAFNR study abroad team my first two years here, so much so that the Director Shanon Dickerson would recognize me! Pre-COVID I would frequently pop into 2-64 to say hi to Julia Scroggs and anyone else who happened to be at the main desk. All of my experiences with the CAFNR Office of Academic Programs have been amazing. I have never felt disrespected or belittled by members of the Office, which has made my Mizzou experience worthwhile.

CAFNR’s RISE Initiative encourages students to have a variety of extracurricular experiences during their time at Mizzou (Research, International, Service Learning, Experiential Learning). What parts of the RISE initiative have you taken advantage of so far, and which do you plan to? What have you enjoyed about these experiences?

I have been a part of the IMSD research program since freshman year. This program makes minority students in STEM aware of research and how it can be part of your future. Since last March, I have been in the next step of the program, MARC Fellows, which has allowed me to design an independent research project. I am looking at how the relative effects of land use practices impact a stream’s metabolism, as this is an indicator for overall health of the stream. Also, I’m applying for a Service Learning trip set for early August in Thailand to experience firsthand conservation efforts on an elephant reservation. What I’ve enjoyed most is getting to know the people who are also conducting research. I love hearing about the programs that my peers are applying for and getting accepted into, as I’m reminded of all the great opportunities that the RISE initiative brings to people. It keeps me motivated to do my best like my peers.

What has been your favorite activity or experience of being a CAFNR student?

Hands down my favorite experience/memory of being a part of CAFNR is having direct access to Tiger Stripe ice cream! Okay but honestly, after switching my major, I feel not only more connected with the scientific community, but also with the people in my classes. I no longer am afraid to speak up when I don’t understand something, which is something I never felt before. That would not have been possible if not for the great environments created by CAFNR professors and mentors!