In the sea of green and white at Michigan State University, Grand Rapids Junior College alum Carolyn J. Miller works with the very greenest.
Miller, who received her associate degree in 1987, is MSU’s plant recorder.
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“I use GIS (geographic information systems) technology to track and record all the trees and shrubs on campus,” she said. “Not only do I work with GIS, but I update the plant database with pertinent information to all trees and shrubs.”
Miller embarked on her higher ed journey at GRJC because of its affordable tuition, small classes and the help available at tutoring labs.
“I would spend hours in the math help labs to get the added instruction I needed,” she said. “Knowing that I could succeed in these classes solidified my continued education.”.
While she loved all her science classes – “every instructor I had went above and beyond to assist students” – Introduction to Botany and Organic Chemistry I and II were especially pivotal.
“My botany professor, Dr. Jack Heydenburg, encouraged me to focus on botany, as he saw my enthusiasm for the plant world,” she said. “I will be forever grateful for his encouragement.
“My organic chemistry professor, Dr. Ron Edwards, made me get outside my comfort zone in the lab. I was apprehensive on taking organic chemistry, knowing that I’d have to take it wherever I transferred to, but in the end, it was the best decision to take this class at GRJC.”
Miller went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in botany and plant pathology from MSU and is working on a master’s degree in biology at Miami University in Ohio.
After working at Frederik Meijer Gardens and then Naples Botanical Garden in Florida, she started at MSU in 2015.
“Life is not easy, and to find a career that fulfills you can be even tougher,” Miller said. “Getting all the experience you can in college is a must. Yes, some of those experiences might be lackluster, but in the end, you will not regret those chances. I have always strived to tackle any job, and, ultimately, this led me to my dream job.”
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