Student Profile

Erin Irons '16

What sparked your interest in Saint Michael’s and made you want to transfer from UVM?

My sister went here. She’s two years older than me, and was in her junior year by the time I was in college. The funny thing was Saint Michael’s had everything that I wanted, but I just didn’t want to come here because my sister came here. Looking back on it, I’m like, what were you thinking? But my sister, when she spoke about Saint Michael’s, had this genuinely happy expression and tone of voice. Whenever I came to visit her, that’s what it felt like, that people here were just genuinely happy to be a part of this community. The small classroom aspect was huge. At UVM we’re between 200 and 300 people.  I sat in the second row in all of my classes, and the professors had no idea who I was. Just knowing that you could have so many personal connections and relationships with your professors too was a big draw for me.  My sister told me that she was always challenged in her classes, never told what to think but how to think, so that challenge excited me.

Are there any professors that you feel have been the most influential to you?

I would say almost all of them, but if I had to limit it, Professor Michael Bosia in the Political Science department. It was because of his class that I changed my major to Political Science. He’s my advisor, and I’ve been taking classes with him every semester. It’s that same notion of, he doesn’t tell us what to think, he’s always pushing us to challenge what we know, and to not just read an article and agree with the author. He pushes us to look at it from many different angles, and interpret things differently than we would have done at first. Susan Ouellette, in the History department, I love her more than anything. I like to joke that she’s my best friend. I took my first class with her sophomore year and I’ve taken a class with her every semester since. She has really inspired me to grow within history. Once I started taking classes with her, reading about the woman’s rights movement, the first birth control clinic in New York City, and talking with her about those things, she makes me so excited and inspires me to want to learn more. She gets this fire in her eyes when you talk to her about any of her experiences; she’s just so excited to share with you and so happy that you want to listen. She’s amazing.

Why did you want to do summer research, and what are you researching?

I love doing research papers. I’m such a nerd! But when I get assigned a research paper, I love going to the library for hours and doing work, so I figured I could harness that on a much bigger project and see where that could take me. I really wanted to just get a better experience with research itself. I also wanted to step outside my comfort zone a little bit, which is why I’m working with EPSCoR (the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research). I have never taken an Environmental Studies class. I’m one of the few non-STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or Environmental Studies majors there. I took a class, Concepts in Chemistry, with Professor Marque Moffett, and she really made the class what we wanted. She made the curriculum in a way that would make us excited, because she knew we were non-science majors and she wanted us to enjoy the class. We did a lot of work on climate change, which I just was so excited by. I couldn’t believe how much is happening and nobody’s doing anything about it. At that point I had just changed my major to Political Science, and I knew there wasn’t enough time to take any more Environmental Studies classes. I saw the posters around campus for EPSCoR and saw that they had non-science projects. I applied on a whim; I was really excited about it, everything just kind of fell into place, and I got it. I’m part of their governance and policy research team, so we’re the non-STEM people. My project is really different; I’m looking at the responses to Hurricane Irene on Twitter. I’m going on Twitter and copying and pasting to make cool analyzations and interpreting things from there. Twitter is my favorite medium of social media, so I was super excited.

Have you made any connections with alumni?

All the time, you mention something about St. Mike’s and somebody will just pop up, saying, “You went to St. Mike’s? I went to St. Mike’s!” That’s always really cool. Working with Founder’s we have a whole group that works with alumni, so we’re always meeting alumni through that. What’s fun is, because my sister did just graduate, having good relationships with her friends and seeing what they’re doing out in the world has been really great, and I’ve been able to make connections through them too. We’re doing what they just did two years ago, and it’s cool to see how they’ve been doing out in the world, since we’ll be there very soon.

What advice would you give to future students?

Don’t be afraid to take a chance. I’ve changed my major at least five or six times. If you find something that interests you and you take a chance, you never know what could happen. This summer is one of the biggest things: I’m not a STEM major, I’m not Environmental Studies, and yet I’m working with a National Science Foundation Grant. For me, it worked out, and I didn’t expect it to at all. I think if you find something that interests you and take a chance, you’re going to be so much happier than if you stick with one thing but it doesn’t really interest you or challenge you too much. So just find what you love and run with it.

What do you feel is the value of a Saint Michael’s education?

I think St. Mike’s, and especially a liberal arts education, is such a well-rounded experience. If I didn’t have to, I would never have taken that science class. I’m the daughter of a nurse and a pharmacist and the science gene literally jumped over me. But if I had never taken that class I never would have been doing research this summer, and I didn’t have a big passion about the environment beforehand. I recycled and I made sure to turn the water off when I brushed my teeth, but I didn’t really think about it. It just opened my eyes up to so much; I can’t wait to join GreenUp this year. I think it speaks to so many different things. I never would have taken a philosophy class, I never would have taken a religion class, but those have influenced how I think about things, which is really cool. I love the residential aspect of St. Mike’s because I think it really does form a bigger community within St. Mike’s between the students. I probably never would have hung out with my sister’s friends, who in turn became my friends, if they had lived off campus in an apartment because they were seniors. Having everyone here just builds so many more connections. I think the accessibility to professors is unique for our school, but it’s made all the difference in the world because professors genuinely want to get to know you. I’ve had professors email me magazine articles they knew I’d be interested in, though it had nothing to do with the topic of our class. The St. Mike’s experience is just invaluable.

What is the mark that you want to make on the world?

Being a Political Science major, I really do want to go into policy work; I want to do legislative work. But I want to do it for the issues that get thrown under the table a lot. I think going to St. Mike’s has opened my eyes to so much. I really didn’t understand gender inequality, but then I got here, and now I’m like the biggest feminist ever.  I want to work towards achieving gender equality, whether that be wage equality, or healthcare equality. Both of my parents work in healthcare, so I’ve grown up with the notion that healthcare should be affordable and accessible to everyone. I think women’s healthcare especially is something that’s just being tossed around Congress. I can’t even put words to it; it’s so frustrating. I think my footprint is that cliché of making the world a better place, but my thing is that I want to ensure equality for everyone.

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