Abbie Schultheis (Class of 2016)

photo of Abbie Schultheis

  • senior English/Literature major
  • minors in Management and Global Perspectives on Sustainability
  • from Hudson, OH
  • studied environmental sustainability practices in American colleges at the Luxembourg Summer Institute (2014)
  • researched environmental education during the Anthropocene as a 2014-2015 Undergraduate Altman Fellow with Miami's Humanities Center
  • College of Arts and Science Ambassador
  • Chief Justice of the Student Court and Resident Assistant in McFarland Hall
  • recipient of the 2016 President's Distinguished Service Award
"I really appreciate that Miami has been able to help me take on and enjoy a wide-ranging, diverse array of classes. The liberal arts have allowed me to have a better appreciation for education — there's more to learning than taking classes as a trade or honing your skills in one specific area."

Why Miami?

"I was originally considering going to a different college in Pennsylvania, but my mom encouraged me to look at a few more Ohio schools, and I ended up falling in love with Miami. I originally wanted to major in Accounting, so after touring the campus, with a focus on the Farmer School of Business, I knew Miami was the right fit.

"My first year here was definitely a big transition. I felt a bit homesick at first, but my dorm was in the Redhawk Tradition Living Learning Community (LLC), which made it easier for me to make friends. There was also a great foundation of people from my high school, but I could still branch out on my own. Miami quickly became a second home for me.

"My Accounting major and English minor were originally intended for me to attend law school, but that changed after I went abroad with Miami's Humanities Center to the Luxembourg Summer Institute for an undergraduate research fellowship. We delved into writing a great research paper, and coupled with all the English classes I had already taken, I realized English was truly what I was passionate about.

I understood that switching majors was a bit of a risk, but English majors have many more career opportunities available than becoming a teacher or lawyer. I switched my major from Accounting to English Literature and haven't looked back since!"

Best Miami Experiences

"I have had a wonderful experience with Miami’s English program. There's definitely an emphasis on reading many different kinds of literature, from 15th century late medieval plays to contemporary fiction like Gone Girl. You learn about how literature represents different eras and sociocultural issues, and that is fascinating to me.

Abbie Schultheis (black tee shirt, just right of center) and fellow Student Court Justices pose for a selfie.

"English 143 was the first class I took with Tim Melley during my first semester as a freshman. He is such an incredible teacher, challenging but also inspiring. We read various American novels from 1945 to the present, from Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. People tend to think that English majors are mostly reading older texts like Shakespeare or Charles Dickens, but it's interesting to see how relatable more contemporary books are — they're going to become the timeless books that people will be reading 300 or 400 years from now!

On the extracurricular side, some of my favorite activities at Miami include my involvement as the Chief Justice of Miami's Student Court. We handle a lot of non-suspendable cases in which students appeal charges for alleged violations of the Code of Student Conduct, ranging from academic integrity to alcohol and drug violations. We take more of an educational approach to it, giving students an opportunity to talk and defend themselves in front of their peers. It keeps them accountable, but it is also a more relatable way of handling sanctions.

"Currently I'm also a Resident Assistant in McFarland Hall, so between that and Student Court, I have been very involved with first-year students. It's fun to help students transition and get acclimated, and I think this has helped me better understand how scary and fun and challenging and exciting the beginning of college can be. I appreciate the fact that I can take a more educational role and help guide students — this has helped me become a better person."

Studying the Anthropocene with the Humanities Center

Abbie Schultheis (2nd from left) pose in front of a statue in Europe.

"As an Undergraduate Research Fellow in Luxembourg, I was in a group of about 10 humanities majors who collaborated on an individual research project in a think-tank environment for 3 weeks. We focused on environmental sustainability practices in American colleges, which was so enjoyable that I felt encouraged to apply to be an Altman Undergraduate Fellow last year.

"In the Altman Program, which is through the Humanities Center, I worked with 5 other undergraduate fellows as well as a graduate student and two faculty members from various disciplines on research focused on the Anthropocene. This is the phenomenon in which humans have become a global force of nature and are changing the environment.

"Each of us also had our own individual research projects, and I studied the history and evolution of environmental studies programs in the U.S. and how that role in education has shaped the way we view environmentalism. We were mentored by two faculty members, Peggy Shaffer in history and Tom Crist in biology and sustainability. It was incredible being able to work so closely with them!

"During my second semester with the Altman Program, we interviewed 12 guest speakers, all world-famous researchers and scholars, who spoke during the Altman Lecture Series. We got to know them on a more personal level and apply their expertise and knowledge to our own research. We also conducted an independent survey that was sent across campus to analyze what Miami students think about sustainability and environmentalism, including how language plays into it. We tracked the results and reported them on our blog, where we also published our research papers and notes from the Altman Lecture Series.

"Overall, my experience with the Altman Program was really rewarding and eye-opening, and it solidified my decision to switch my major to English. It also inspired me to think more critically about my relationship with the environment and sparked my interest to become an environmental lawyer."

Miami and Liberal Arts Education

"When I was a senior in high school, I didn't really understand the importance of having a liberal arts education. It's all about broadening your perspectives, which is what I really think being an undergraduate is all about.

"I really appreciate that Miami has been able to help me take on and enjoy a wide-ranging, diverse array of classes. The liberal arts have allowed me to have a better appreciation for education — there's more to learning than taking classes as a trade or honing your skills in one specific area. With liberal arts, you become a more well-rounded and professional individual.

"My major and two minors have allowed me to really branch out. Last fall I took two English classes: one was a capstone on revenge theory, and the other was a study of Charles Dickens. I also took an anthropology class about Latin America, a French class, and a class on management and leadership theory. I really love having the flexibility to take all of these really broad and wide-ranging classes."

Advice to Students

"What I learned from switching from the Farmer School of Business to the College of Arts and Science is to not be afraid to pursue my passion and to do what feels right to me. Find comfort in knowing that when you first come to Miami, you have enough time to be uncertain, and you don't have to know right this minute what your major or career is going to be.

"Try to be in tune with your feelings! Embrace the discomfort of maybe not knowing exactly what you want to do. Reach out to other people, join a club you've never heard of, or take a class you've never considered before, and it'll help you determine what you're meant to do. If you do what you love, the rest will fall into place, and you'll really develop over the 4 years or more that you're at Miami."

[September 2015]