I changed my major, discovered my calling

NAME: Paige Shafer 
HOMETOWN: Eddyville, Iowa
MAJOR: Biology

INVOLVEMENT ON CAMPUS: President of the Wartburg Habitat Chapter, Orientation leader, IgKnight mentor, Ambassador, Homecoming Committee member, Dance Marathon, Unified Sports Day, Service Trips, Tri Beta Honor Society, Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE WARTBURG: I loved the small town feel and felt welcomed by all the faculty, staff, and students.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON YOUR MAJOR: I initially majored in elementary education and after taking Physics of Ordinary Things with Dr. (Michael) Bechtel he convinced me that I should pursue a biology degree since I expressed interest in plants and research.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS AFTER GRADUATION: I plan to work for the Northern Research Station (Forest Service) in northern Wisconsin and pursue a master’s degree in crop and soil science from either Michigan State University or University of Wisconsin Madison in the fall. 

HOW DID WARTBURG PREPARE YOU FOR YOUR NEXT STEP: Wartburg provided me with research experience, the opportunity to discuss real life problems in classes, and has challenged me in and out of the classroom to be the best person and scientist that I can be.

Paige Shafer

DID YOU COMPLETE ANY INTERNSHIPS: During the summer of 2017, I was a greenhouse technician on a seedbank study partnered with the Forest Service  at Michigan State University. The next summer I worked at the Northern Research Station in Rhinelander as a forestry technician on a fire heating study in Ashland, Wis. While at Wartburg West in Denver, Colo., during Winter Term this year, I worked at the Denver Botanic Gardens as a herbarium and library interns.

DO YOU HAVE ANY MENTORS ON CAMPUS: Dr. Bechtel was one of the first professors I had. Without his support and belief in my abilities I would not have had the confidence to change my major and discover my calling. As my adviser, he has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone to travel and do research. Dr. Michaeleen Golay arrived at Wartburg the same time that I changed my major to biology. I cannot thank her enough for all the advice she has given to me in these past three years. Her door was always open, and she pushed me to be the best scientist I could be. I am not sure where I would be today if it weren’t for her. 


DID YOU DO ANY RESEARCH WHILE AT WARTBURG: I assisted in research done by Michigan State University and the USFS Northern Research Station on the Moquah Soil Heating Project as a greenhouse technician and then field member looking at how different severity levels of fire impact the native seedbank of a pine barren ecosystem. My undergraduate research was on the topic of Seasonal Storage of Carbon, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus in Forest Herbacious Plants. My research partner and I are currently pursuing publication of our findings. Then, at the Denver Botanic Gardens, I assisted with the Global Botanic Gardens Genetic Initiative by collecting and processing alpine species that bloom in the early spring. 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WARTBURG MEMORY: Holding a sloth in Peru during a May Term trip and interning at the Denver Botanic Gardens!

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CURRENT STUDENTS: Communicate with your professors, do your homework,  remember that you can do anything but not everything, write letters to your family, take risks, and most importantly love plants!

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS: I see myself working for the forest service in a location where I participate in assisting with urban agriculture and food justice challenges!

WHY WAS WARTBURG WORTH IT: The people. At Wartburg, all the faculty and staff want to see you succeed and are willing to challenge and support you along the way.