Saturday, April 7, 2012

School Update - Back to Bio

I'm back to bio and I couldn't be more thrilled.  It's been quite an adventure and there have been many times that I've considered changing the subheading of my blog because I haven't been in school for a bit.  Now I don't have to.  Let me fill you in on some details in brief.

  • Fall 2008 I dropped out of seminary with no intention of returning.  Life felt very dark and like I was drifting in an unknown ocean far from land.  What was I going to do with my life?  I had no idea.
  • Fall 2009 I joined the Peace Corps and got a commission to teach English in a Central Asian country (Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kurdistan, etc.).  After research and soul searching I declined the offer.  This was my experimental, feeling trapped phase where I just wanted to run away from people's disappointment and judgement for dropping out of seminary and changing my beliefs.  Still working at the Christian ministry, Ligonier Ministries, that I'd worked out for 6 years, but feeling chokingly claustrophobic. (There were great times, though.  And wonderful, wonderful coworkers.  Sincerely some of the best people I know, but doctrinally very condemning of my beliefs.)
  • Fall 2010 I moved to Tallahassee, FL to take courses at FSU and the local community college TCC.  Found out there were rules that prevented me from taking courses at both institutions at once.  So, I took the maximum amount of courses I could at TCC on federal loans since my parents refused to cosign on a private loan.
  • Mid-Fall 2010 - My savings were drained and I attempt to transfer the federal loans to my bank account online.  Was unable.  Called the school and they said, "Let me pull up your account...O...I see...How about you come to campus to discuss this."  So, I did.  I talked to a low level adviser, then his boss, then her boss.  Finally I was told that I should wait to get a phone call from one of the VPs.  I was enrolled at the school, but the courses I was taking didn't fit within a degree at the school and couldn't count as electives for me since I had a bachelors already.  I spoke the VP on the phone and he said that there was nothing that they could do and that the federal loans would not be able to go through.  I had just moved to a town that I knew no one in, had no job, no money and no loans.  I literally started crying on the phone with the VP.   I don't think I've ever done anything like that before.  I was scared.  He felt so bad that, and since they were somewhat culpable for helping me get into the situation (although, I should have known better, but I've never done any of this before and had no clue what I was doing.) that they offered to refund my money.  I took the offer.  I had to.  So, more than half way through the semester with all 'A's I dropped out.  The next day I showed up at TCC with a resume in hand and asked, "Is there anything else we can work out?"  Waiting to hear back on the job I remember staying in bed for several days.  I was crushed.  Turns out, however, that it pays to cry since I ended up getting a job working in their advising department functioning as a secretary.  It ended up being one of the best jobs I've ever had.  The people were so gracious and a joy to be around.  I still keep up with some of them (I'm dog sitting for one of them in 2 weeks).
  • Spring 2011 - I couldn't afford any courses, so I tried for the next best thing--jobs in bio.  Picked up a lab tech job at TCC because I knew the lab manager through the Unitarian church in town.  I picked up two marine education jobs at FSU working with local elementary and middle schools either bringing touch tanks to the school or taking students out on boats at the FSU marine lab.  I applied to UCF's science education master's program.  Got accepted, but got zero financial aid since I applied past the deadlines.  Decided I would apply again and meet the deadlines.
  • Summer 2011 - Got a job as a teacher's aide at a local science center's summer camps (Challenger Learning Center).  Later worked my way up to being a teacher there.
  • Fall 2011 - I finally had enough money to pay for one course--chemistry.  I started taking that and working as a teacher's aide in a science classroom at a school for kids with emotional and behavioral conditions.  I also reapplied to UCF's sci ed master's program.  I would have applied at FSU, but due to budget cuts their master's program was open only to internal students doing a double bachelor's/master's degree simultaneously.  The program director said they couldn't make any exception for me.
  • Spring 2012 - Got accepted to UCF's sci ed program.  Didn't want to go.  In desperation I emailed the -new- director of FSU's sci ed program at the beginning of March.  They said to come in to discuss the program.  I did.  I got accepted pretty much right then.  Two weeks later they hear of an opening in a related department - The Center for Advanced Learning and Assessment - for an assistantship that would completely cover the cost of my tuition and give me a salary that would exceed anything I've ever made in a year.  So, I spend hours and hours working on my resume all the while inundated in lesson plans for teaching at the Challenger Learning Center spring break camps.  I send in my resume on Sunday night and get an email back Monday morning asking to set up an interview.  They say they'll call me to nail down an interview time.  I get a phone call the next day at the time they said they'd call.  Unexpectedly, I pick up the phone at the time they set and it was a friend from swing dance, which I do weekly.  I was taken aback to hear from him and, honestly, a little disappointed to be tying up the phone with social stuff when I had a phone call that I was so nervous about waiting.  Anyway, he wasn't calling as a friend--he was calling as someone that was going to be interviewing me for the position!!  I had an 'in'!  
  • April 4th, 2012 - I got the full ride assistantship!  I'll be studying what I came here to study--biology--for FREE and I'll be getting paid to do it!  I'm pinching myself to believe this!  I came willing to get into a small fortune of debt to pursue a career in biology, I was completely road blocked from doing it and now I get it handed to me completely free and with a handsomely paying job!  I still can't believe it!
  • Summary of how I think I've gotten this far: I've been dogged about getting recommendations on LinkedIn for years, being involved in a church got me several tiny science jobs by knowing the right people, writing this silly blog shows that I can communicate and that I care deeply about science, keeping a ridiculous amount of Google doc entries of random ideas, living by a to-do list, texting to myself ideas/to-dos so I don't forget them, running a few marathons--gives me energy and respect points in an interview, being open about dropping from ministry--people want to help me make the career transition that I'm in (at first I was embarrassed as heck, but I think it's actually helped me), and knowing the right people (which means I need to know a lot of people--going to church and other social events, like swing dance).
  • Then I got the AFCEA scholarship which will help me pay for school when I'm doing my full time internship.
  • I also had my degree requirements change the first week of classes such that I could graduate a semester early and the only reason that worked out is because I HAD LEFT 1 RANDOM CLASS ON MY SCHEDULE THAT I DIDN'T NEED.  No reason.  Just had it on there.  It was totally full with a waiting list but I had it.  And now I get to graduate a semester early because of it. :)


  1. Lee!! That is so amazing. I read this and pinch myself too. That just goes to show the power of persistence, obsession, and people. It's quantum physics at it's best. I have been reading a lot about thoughts, and success and believing in what you do. It sends an energy out to the universe and attracts it right back to you. If you want it, believe it and go for it you'll get it. I thought of people I know who are obsessed and passionate about certain things and I thought of you with Biology. Your consistant pursuit has led you to do what you love best AND reap the monetary benefits!Aaah! I'm so excited for you. You are inspiring to me.

  2. Thanks, Mely! It's been quite the journey! I'm going to have a couple very, very busy years ahead of me, but I'm excited to see where it might lead! Hooray for serendipity!


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