Animal science major Nabilah Curtis (19c) uses every opportunity she can to chase her dream of becoming a veterinarian. Participating in the vet shadowing program with Clinical Assistant Professor and College Veterinarian Kirstin Ruffner gave her the opportunity to gain firsthand experience working with large animals on campus. “I think the shadowing program has definitely opened my eyes a bit more to large animal medicine. I never thought about being a cow, sheep, or horse vet, but while watching Dr. Ruffner work, I started to be able to see myself in that same position.” Nabilah hopes to attend vet school after Berry and work with both small and large animals.
Sarah Cooper (19c) was looking for a college where she could ride on a competitive equestrian team while working as a paid researcher in a science lab. Only one college fit her criteria – Berry!
Choosing Berry has helped Sarah win the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship this year and compete nationally for the college equestrian team.
“I love it here so much. I’m a student-athlete and a fulltime student, and I work about 16 hours doing research in the chemistry department. In most other schools you could only be an athlete or have a job,” she said.
Berry is known for its academic rigor, but also for its small class and lab sizes. Sarah wants everyone to know Berry is the reason for her success. The attention from professors – not overworked graduate students typical of large universities – allows her to excel and thrive.
“Classes are competitive, but it’s not cutthroat. Students work together all the time. It’s very team oriented at Berry,” Sarah noted.
Earning the Goldwater Scholarship allows Sarah, a rising senior, to pursue a spot at one of the top 10 graduate programs in the country in her quest to earn a Ph.D. and eventually work in pharmaceutical research and development. The Goldwater is one of the most prestigious scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics, recognizing students who excel in undergraduate research with faculty. Sarah joins winners from Cal Tech, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Duke and Princeton among others.
Berry science professors teach three classes every semester, giving them time to mentor students outside of class. For Sarah, that mentor is Associate Professor of Biochemistry Dominic Qualley.
“Pretty much anybody who is motivated here can do research,” Dr. Qualley said, adding that the school also provides support for faculty and students wishing to travel to conferences to present their findings.
“At a large university, professors won’t give you the time of day. They focus on the grad students,” Sarah said. “The hours that the professors at Berry spend with students provide us with valuable firsthand instruction.”
And when Sarah needs a break from all that research and studying, she reaps the benefit of being able to board her horse, Dinky, on the world’s largest campus.
“I can just drive up to mountain campus and tell her how my test went,” she said laughing.
Avery James is building a remarkable record at Berry: the junior is a talented poet and a top psychology student who is a two-time state forensics champion competing at a national level. She volunteers with developmentally challenged children and is working on securing an internship at a nonprofit serving homeless women and children. When she graduates from Berry, she plans on earning two graduate degrees: a Master of Fine Arts in poetry first and then an advanced degree to work as a clinical psychologist. And talking to Avery, one has no doubt that she will reach all her goals.
What’s surprising to hear Avery admit is that when she first came to Berry from Conyers, Georgia, she was “a bit shy.” Then she saw a sign for a Forensics Union meeting, which she mistook for a forensic psychology meeting. “It didn’t take me long to realize I was at a club meeting, not a psychology class,” she laughed. “It was the happiest accident I ever made.” Being a member of Berry’s very successful Forensics Union has given her the “confidence to become an advocate for social change.”
Avery has ready advice for students considering Berry: always talk to your professors. “They love it when you come into their offices – in fact, they expect it.” Also, learn to balance your personal needs with those of others. “Even though college is very hectic and you’ll be pulled in a million directions, put yourself first.” And finally, “Don’t pet the deer. I learned that the hard way,” she laughs.
Tyler Vaughan loves to solve puzzles and one of the puzzles he’s most enjoyed solving at Berry is that of his future profession.
Tyler came to Berry from Ringgold, Georgia, thinking he wanted to pursue a career as an actor. And indeed, he did land a plum role as the lead in a Berry production of “Peter and the Starcatcher.” Then he started to take classes in anatomy and physiology and thought about how interesting and complex the human body is. “I realized medicine has been an integral part of our success as a species. It contributes so much to our quality of life,” he reflected. As a Gate of Opportunity Scholar, Tyler had a job as a student trainer in sports medicine where he worked with several Berry athletic teams. With all the patient contact, he started to think about becoming a physical therapist working with performers. After conversations with friends and professors, however, Tyler realized he wanted to leap into the field of medicine with both feet and become an M.D. “From the minute I made the decision to become a doctor, everything just felt right,” he said. Tyler has shadowed an internist and a neurologist and made two medical mission trips to Nicaragua. He also volunteers at a nearby free clinic.
As a psychology major with a chemistry minor, Tyler has thought a lot about what motivates people. In his social psychology class, he learned that “as humans, we have two basic needs: to belong and to be correct.” He said that a choice for Berry allows students to both belong – and be right. “Berry’s community is so accepting. There’s some place for everyone to belong here,” he said.
Dogs and cats and … elephants? Berry student Robert Stilz (19c) recently traveled to Thailand to work with rescued elephants in the Elephant Nature Park and with dogs and cats at Animal Rescue Kingdom shelter. It followed his work at the Berry College sheep unit and a local vet clinic. “Both prepared me by teaching me how to work with animals of all kinds and teaching me about veterinary medicine,” he says. Robert is an animal science/pre-vet major with minors in chemistry, Spanish, and One Health. He plans to earn his doctorate in veterinary medicine and his master’s in public health after graduating from Berry in 2019. “I still cannot believe what an amazing opportunity this trip was for me,” Robert says of the Thailand trip coordinated by Loop Abroad. “I’ve made lifelong memories and friendships on this trip and I would encourage anyone interested to seek out the same.”
Story by student social media assistant Shannon Rainey.
Leadership Fellows Taylor Anthony (18c) and Jessie Moore (19c) got a firsthand look at lawmaking as part of the Georgia Legislative Internship Program this spring. As two out of 30 students, they took advantage of the exclusive opportunity to network, shadow and work closely with Georgia politicians at the State Capitol. Taylor and Jessie are no strangers to positions that encourage strong leadership. As Leadership Fellows, they have spent their time at Berry growing in their own leadership styles. Berry has provided these go-getters with ample opportunity to lead, from their time in Model UN to Taylor’s work as an assistant leadership coordinator in the Student Activities Office and Jessie’s work as a resident assistant. These community-minded students are sure to make their mark on the world thanks to their willingness to better their surroundings and themselves.
Sophomore environmental science major Carley Carder (19c) just landed her dream internship with the United States Geological Survey! A lover of geoscience and coral reefs, Carley was ecstatic when Dr. Tamie Jovanelly, associate professor of geology, told her about the U.S. Geological Survey Dive Team. That set Carley on a mission to contact the right people to get an internship. With her professor’s help, she contacted Dr. Lauren Toth, a scientist working on the Coral Reef Ecosystems Studies project. Normally, undergraduates are not considered for internship positions with the research team, but Carley’s diving expertise and her experience with isotopic dating methods at Berry put her a cut above the rest. This summer, she’ll be at the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center monitoring growth of corals in the U.S. Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Florida Keys. Carley says of her experience, “The professors at Berry are so engaged with their students and want us to succeed. Dr. Jovanelly worked so hard to get me this internship, and when one door shut, she knew exactly what to do to keep the line of communication open.”