I entered university out of a weak educational system at a public school in rural Wisconsin, which notably lacked advanced mathematics. I come from a long line of strictly medical doctors, so it was ingrained in me that I would undoubtedly go on to pursue a pre-medical track in college. That was until the mathematics department faculty had a direct impact on my reclaimed enthusiasm for mathematics! 

Wake Forest’s strong faculty – all who have had me as a student, advisee, mentee, etc. – instilled in me a confidence to completely deviate from everything my family and I knew about post-graduate careers, and for that I am truly grateful. By the beginning of sophomore year, I had solidified interest in pursuing an undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics. Though the most difficult, and often frustrating, courses I have taken were from this department, the faculty worked hard to make sure they were the most fulfilling. Their enthusiasm for the material and the greater applications were contagious. 

Dr. John Gemmer and Dr. Frank Moore were two professors who have been truly outstanding educators and mentors because of their genuine dedication to and genuine interest in my academic and professional experience. They have left an indelible mark on my undergraduate career, pushing me to apply for, engage in, and seek out opportunities that have reinforced my desire to pursue a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics. It’s incredible to believe that I’ve been able to transcend the typical undergraduate experience because of the encouragement and support of professors and people like them in such a competitive field.

There are many pieces of advice I wish had stuck with me throughout undergrad. As an incoming student, you tend to brush off the wisdom that older students or adults bestow upon you before you begin a new academic journey. However, I wish I had initially leaned into accelerating my growth into a woman. It’s completely fine, great even, to do something silly or fail every single day. You just need to learn to lean on yourself as much as you can. 

Similarly, I think a majority of people come into Wake Forest expecting perfection of themselves, but it’s just wildly unrealistic. It is so, so important to realize your lesser strengths because we all can’t be great at everything. I would advise my first-year self to reflect more upon how I got to where I currently was, ask myself questions like “Why am I ___? How do I __?” to take steps toward becoming a stronger version of myself. 

On a lighter note, I would have advised myself to find a mentor, or a great support system, right off of the bat. While it’s completely normal to take a year to realize your goals, it is always beneficial to find a mentor and to have friends. Success means nothing if you don’t have anyone to share it with. Even if you don’t reach impossible standards, you’ll still experience so many beautiful things with people you care about, being able to reminisce about them for quite some time with people who will remember it all with you. As for a mentor, find someone you will work towards being like in every aspect of life. It is so great to channel your energy into being like someone you admire career/relationship/health wise, and it will create many opportunities that would not have been visible to you otherwise. Eventually, you’ll be unwavering from these values to the point where it becomes noticed as your own character.

The most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a Wake Forest student have definitely been in traveling to Applied Math Conferences, locally and nationally, with my close department friends and professor Dr. John Gemmer. The conferences themselves were exceptional and had a great impact on our abilities to present, connect with others, and learn from some of the best in the subfields of applied math. However, they were enriched by being able to experience everything with those you admire in Wake Forest’s own community. It’s equally exciting to be able to explore new cities together in free time and to sit down at dinner and be able to chat about non-academic related endeavors. 

The best part is that my best friend and Physics/Math major Emily Foley and I met through one of these experiences at Wake Forest’s very own annual Integrating Research in Science Conference that we co-organized together. We’ve been inseparable since, and Dr. Gemmer has had to put up with our shenanigans on a daily basis for two years and counting. We swear he loves us though!

Dr. Gemmer and Dr. Frank Moore based on the reasoning in the last question.

I surprised myself by adopting my cat, Mars, during the spring of my first-year student year! I was so excited to have her in my Poteat suite, and in the years following, she became very popular campus-wide. Therefore, I decided to create an Instagram account for her which got lots of attention (from students and professors). As her popularity grew, she was invited to tutor in the Math and Stats Center for a day! She’s even been a frequent visitor to the Computer Science Grad Lounge where many professors, their children, and other students stop by for pets! Not to mention she’s been the muse of a film student’s documentary! Mars has been such a great support animal for me and many others, and I could not be happier to take her with me on my next journey to grad school!

“Invisible String” by Taylor Swift will always remind me of my time at Wake Forest. There is something so healing about the reminder that you are where you’re meant to be. I think about how lucky I am to have met everyone at Wake Forest who has had an impact on my life, whether significant or slight, and thinking that there was a thread of fate tying us all together. Time might play tricks with us and we don’t always get clues or signs of what will come. Sometimes time will cut us open and give us the blues but in the end, we’ll heal just fine. Taylor Swift’s discography never fails to make me happy, and I associate certain memories with many of her songs, but I really do love the lyrics of, “Isn’t it just so pretty to think all along there was some invisible string tying you to me?”

I entered college as a quiet and reserved first-year student, hesitant to engage in conversations or socialize with others. Internally, I was absolutely terrified of every single situation like an anxious chihuahua; that’s the best way for me to describe myself at that point in time. However, I viewed Wake Forest as an opportunity to transform myself into who I aspired to be: someone who could talk to anyone. 

Right off of the bat, I actively worked on developing communication skills and overcoming social barriers by simply saying hello to everyone around me. So simple, yet so effective. Everyone was in the same boat as I was, which was very validating. They were so kind, which helped me to build my confidence to gain more exposure in diverse social situations, joining clubs/organizations, and participating in group activities. Some of these were major flops, but every chance I got to immerse myself into an environment that would pull me outside of my comfort zone was incredibly beneficial. 

A few activities that I didn’t realize would contribute to my personal growth were my participation in the Spirit of the Old Gold and Black marching band for two years, joining the sisterhood of Kappa Alpha Theta, and playing on the club tennis team. While these may seem like insignificant, organizations, regardless of background and personality, I’ve been able to build a great network of connections that have enriched my college experience. 

These interactions reflect my personal growth and acquisition of social skills that have been invaluable in both academic and real-world settings. For example, I’ve been able to exercise my newfound communication skills across the country presenting at regional, national, and international Applied Math conferences, which I could not have imagined myself doing in the slightest just years prior. These experiences were wildly influential to my success as a mathematician, student, friend, etc. for which I could not be more grateful.