Spouse’s name: Jim McSally (fiancé)
Major while at Millikin: Chemistry
Other degree(s), including awarding institutions: PhD – University of California, Irvine
Current employer and job title: Chemistry lecturer – SUNY Geneseo
Why did you choose to attend Millikin?
I was immediately attracted to the smaller campus and the small class sizes that the school offered. Upon walking through Leighty-Tabor Science Center, seeing the chemistry floor, and meeting with various faculty, I knew that Millikin was the place for me.
What activities did you participate in while a student at Millikin?
American Chemical Society, University Center Board, First Year Experience Mentor, and Sigma Zeta (national science and mathematics honor society)
What are some of your accomplishments since graduating from Millikin?
Awarded an NSF graduate research fellowship, recipient of the Jacqueline Smitrovich Prize in 2016 from UCI (honors an outstanding graduate student in chemistry and additionally requires significant department or community service), completed a post-doc at Los Alamos National Laboratory).
Apart from supporting the Big Blue, what is your favorite pastime?
I appreciate that I've been able to live in a variety of places, and along with that comes exploring my new environment. I'm always on the search for the best coffee/burritos/pizza my city has to offer, as well as checking out the local museums. When I'm not out exploring, I like to stay home and try out new recipes.
What Millikin professor or staff member made the greatest impact on you, and why?
Essentially, the entire chemistry department had an influence on my educational experience. (Professor/Chemistry Department Chair) Paris Barnes was my research advisor, who let me pursue an original research project (the synthesis of environmentally friendly pyrotechnics), and it was working on this project for two years that really showed me I enjoy doing research and trying to find answers to the unanswered questions out there. Now having mentored a handful of my own students, I realize what he did was take a huge risk with me doing my own project, and it's something I'll always remember. Dr. George Bennett (professor) and Dr. J (Dr. Clarence Josefson, professor emeritus) were the ones who encouraged me to apply for an NSF REU. I was accepted to Washington State University in their Laboratory for Atmospheric Research and it was here that I realized I wanted to pursue environmental/atmospheric science as a career. Then there was Dr. Ed (the late Ed Acheson, associate professor emeritus). Dr. Ed was one of the first people I met on campus when I came for a tour, and after a brief conversation with him, I knew this is where I belonged. He always challenged me with his constant questions, but I became a better critical thinker and learner because of it.
What is your most memorable Millikin experience?
My last semester at Millikin, I was accepted to and visiting grad schools. Around spring break, I got in a Milli-van with some of my closest classmates and drove to San Antonio for the Sigma Zeta national convention. From there, I flew to Anaheim, California, to present at the American Chemical Society national meeting and got to go to Disneyland for the first time. After graduation, I joined an immersion class to England and Scotland, and had the time of my life.
What is one concept you learned at Millikin that you use regularly?
My critical thinking skills! To every professor who challenged me to think outside of the box and who let me voice my own opinions and insights on a topic – thank you! As I'm making the transition to the teaching side of academia, I'm constantly challenging my students to develop this skill instead of relying on memorization, especially in the lab.
What advice would you give to current MU students about preparing for life after graduation?
First, take advantage of your liberal arts education. By taking various electives and being involved around campus, I developed a number of skills I can apply to just about any scenario. For example, I learned how to plan large events (Sibs Weekend and Fall Family weekend) and how to make those events successful with the budget I was given. Planning these events has also taught me it takes a village and it's okay to delegate. Second, it's completely okay to not have your career path figured out. I didn't decide to go to graduate school until my senior year. Then all through graduate school, I was determined to end up with an industry position. However, those plans changed when I found out I liked teaching and mentoring, and this is how I ended up lecturing full-time at a PUI [primarily undergraduate institution].