Kaitlyn Kollmann '12: In Her Field of Dreams (The Science of Excellence)By Theresa Schmidt
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At an institution like McKendree University where Academic Excellence is the norm, it is hard to choose just one student that exemplifies this quality. Kaitlyn Kollmann, however, is one student who clearly stands out above an already exceptional crowd. Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Michele Schutzenhofer explains, “Kaitlyn’s performance in the classroom is outstanding. She is always very eager to learn and has proven to me that she spends time understanding the material instead of memorizing information just to ‘make the grade.’”
Always pushing herself above and beyond what is required, Kaitlyn began her experiment for her senior research project a year earlier than most when she was chosen as the McKendree Tyson Fellow for 2010, which is a prestigious opportunity offered through Washington University’s Tyson Research Center to allow a student financial support to work on invasive species research.
Working with Dr. Schutzenhofer five days a week in Eureka, Missouri during summer 2010, Kaitlyn investigated the invasive potential of Lespedeza cuneata and its effects on prairie development. Combined with her McKendree experiences, the Tyson Fellowship program confirmed Kaitlyn’s dedicated vision of becoming a doctor. “I've always wanted to be a doctor, even when I was in kindergarten. My dad is a pediatric dentist, so I've been around the medical field since I was little, and the courses I've taken at McK have only enforced the belief that I'm going into the right field,” she states.
While many would consider the Tyson Fellowship’s humid working conditions and insects the hallmarks of an unpleasant experience, Kaitlyn surprised even herself by how much she enjoyed it. She notes, “I actually loved working out there. It was hard work and, going into it, I didn't think that the research side of biology was something I would be interested in. However, I can honestly say I had a lot of fun out there and was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed myself.”
Dr. Schutzenhofer was also impressed by Kaitlyn’s work ethic: “Kaitlyn’s interest in learning about the research far exceeded the other students’, and she was always volunteering for tasks in the field. She served as a model for the other team members, exhibiting perseverance in the field when others wavered. I felt fortunate to have her on our team.”
Considering all of her activities and accomplishments, Kaitlyn is one of those students who makes you wonder if a Time-Turner device really does exist. Participating in every activity from Sigma Zeta (Science Honor Society) to the McKendree women’s volleyball team to the study abroad program, Kaitlyn is truly an inspiration. She says, “Even though McK is a smaller school, there are still plenty of groups and activities to get involved in. Since coming to McK, I've definitely learned how to manage my time very efficiently. But I love being busy; I get so much more accomplished that way.”
At the same time, her experience as a right-side hitter for McKendree’s women’s volleyball team has helped her recognize the importance of teamwork in accomplishing her goals. “My favorite aspect of volleyball is how much of a team sport it is. You can't do everything by yourself and you really rely on your teammates. I love my teammates at McK; those girls are some of my best friends,” she notes.
Thanks to McKendree’s dedicated faculty, Kaitlyn considers academics a “team sport” as well: “McK is a great fit for me. My favorite aspects are the relationships I have developed with my teachers. They are easily available if you ever need help and they really care about the success of their students. I have been lucky enough to have a lot of great teachers and fellow students that push me to do my best in all my classes.”