From Pre Vet to Water Bugs: Impacts of Joining an RLC

Jessie Doyle

photo of jessie doyleLike many, Jessie Doyle needed a little push in the right direction from good old Dad when it came to joining a Residential Learning Community her freshman year.

“I first learned a little about learning communities during an admissions info session but in the end it was really my dad who wanted me to live in a community with other students who were taking the same classes as me.” 

Members of Trelawney take one course (1 credit) together in the fall, one course (2 credits) together in the spring, and two first year biology core courses. They also participate in off campus trips, receive mentorship from a faculty member and are in turn given a chance to mentor local high school research students.  

“Since were required to take a few courses together, the professors kind of got to know us as the Trelawney kids,” she said. “Before I even had a professor, they recognized me because they had already seen me around the bio building doing research. Because of that I felt really connected to the major so early on.”

The Trelawney Learning Community was designed for first year biology students with an interest in science, biology or research. Since members have a variety of interests, the community also sets out to educate students in the role and responsibilities biologists have in local and global communities.

“In the RLC, we had some students who were more focused on ecology while others were more chemical based. We got to learn about all the different areas of biology, like neurobiology, which no one seemed interested in at first but after being exposed to it, a few have decided to continue studying it.” 

As for Jessie, she declared biology as her major before even stepping foot on campus.

“I came to JMU as a bio-technology major thinking that I wanted to be a vet, but I quickly learned that wasn’t for me,” she said. “Since I was in the learning community, I got to start working on research almost immediately, and that really helped shape my future during my next years at JMU and after graduation.”

The cornerstone of the Trelawney RLC is research. Students are given an opportunity to participate in research during their first year, something that most students don’t have a chance to do until their junior year. Students in the RLC are matched to a research laboratory in biology or biotechnology and participate as a team member in a faculty research program. 

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to research but I thought anything with water would be interesting. So, I got paired up with Dr. Wiggins who was researching water bugs. It was not only a great research experience but a great way for me to bond with a professor who I’ve ended up doing research with over the last four years,” she said. “He helped me find my passion for water bugs, something I would have never imagined or would have considered without the research opportunity I received through the learning community.”

Now that her time living in the learning community is over, Jessie hopes to give incoming students the same little push her dad once gave her. 

“Just apply. I was really worried at first that I would only get to know the people in the community but that isn’t true. I had a random roommate and she wasn’t a biology major,” she said. “I have no idea what I would be doing right now if I hadn’t applied. I can definitely say that living in the community changed my life—not only did I make great friends but I learned so many things I that I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to until my sophomore or junior year.”

Jessie plans to study biological oceanology in graduate school and eventually get her Ph.D.  

Incoming first year students can apply to join a Residential Learning Community now. Applications are due in mid-May.

Learn more about the seven learning communities offered at JMU here.

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 4, 2018

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