Arcadia Davies (Class of 2019)

photo of Arcadia Davies

  • junior Individualized Studies major (fusion of environmental journalism and creative writing)
  • minor in Global Perspectives on Sustainability
  • from Columbus, OH
  • studied tropical marine ecology in Florida and the Bahamas (Summer 2016)
  • Co-founder/President of student organization Women in Social Entrepreneurship
  • Writer and Social Media & Marketing Director for Greenhawks Media
"Don't get discouraged by the Miami Plan or CAS academic requirements, because the many different options give you a great opportunity to discover new interests. Even if it seems hard to plan, you should go for anything you are passionate about. Try to find something that is both interesting and challenging. Instead of seeing it as an obligation, try seeing it as an opportunity!"

Why Miami?

"I'd known how committed and involved Miami's faculty are, with a great teaching reputation, and I also liked the small class sizes. Students can get to know their professors, who make sure their students are getting the most out of their education.

"Coming into Miami, I was interested in the Farmer School of Business and getting an entrepreneurship minor, but I did not have a major firmly in mind at the time. However, I began learning a lot from the very beginning. I enjoyed my WST 251 class [Individualized Studies Seminar] my first semester so much that I declared my individualized studies major right away. The Western Program really embraces the importance of the liberal arts and introduced me to a wonderful community of people.

Arcadia Davies (fourth from left) and other Women in Social Entrepreneurship get together.

"The number of opportunities I found during my freshman year at Miami motivated me beyond just dreaming big. I was in a new environment that encouraged me to take the steps to follow through with things — a big change for me since high school. I ended up not keeping my entrepreneurship minor, but the several classes in entrepreneurship I had taken inspired me to start the organization Women in Social Entrepreneurship (WISE). I had great professors from all over Miami who took the time to help me find projects that I enjoy.

"Western is definitely unique. Its small size provides the students with a communal space where we all can hang out and work, study, and talk together. Community is really such a big part of the program, a quality that is more evident than in some of Miami's larger majors. It feels really nice that we are all friends.

"Because everyone in Western is designing their own major, we all come from different areas and perspectives. The professors have their own interdisciplinary backgrounds, and we get into great conversations with them. Even if we are all studying the same topic, such as the environment, we look at it from multiple perspectives — scientific, historical, and so on — that makes it really special."

Best Miami Experiences

"I've met a lot of students both within and outside the Western Program who support and challenge me in my environmental interests. I work primarily with two faculty members in the Western Program, lecturer Jacqueline Daugherty, my advisor, and professor Hays Cummins, who runs my independent study on how honeysuckle is affecting mammal populations. Both Dr. Daugherty and Dr. Cummins, with their backgrounds in sociology and environmental issues respectively, have been really supportive in helping me focus, develop, and organize my major in addition to conducting this research.

"I worked on this research project with two other students, and we are in the process of analyzing our data for a paper. We will also be presenting our work at Miami's Undergraduate Research Forum in April!

A beautiful sunset in the Bahamas

"My interests in environmental conservation got me involved with a study abroad trip on tropical marine ecology, in the Bahamas and Florida, during the summer after my freshman year. The trip was led by Professor Cummins, a professor in the Western Program. In addition to snorkeling, I examined how environmental changes, especially hurricanes, were affecting the local casuarina trees, so the trip felt very timely and important.

"That trip, along with my interests in the environment, led me to Greenhawks Media, where I am a writer and social media & marketing director. GreenHawks Media is an online publication run by Miami students about environmental issues going on here on campus as well as nationally and globally. Our articles try to reach out to the students and faculty to keep them engaged in the environment, and we also spotlight government issues as well as local programs in the community, such as the Oxford Farmer's Market, to demonstrate how people can get involved and make a positive impact on the environment.

"I would love to go into environmental communication and conservation after I graduate, so the ability to study multiple disciplines here in the Western Program has been really important. Science and writing classes have taught me how to approach various environmental and ecological issues and write about them using different perspectives."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"The liberal arts has been very important for me. I didn't even know I was that interested in science until I went on my study abroad trip, but I ended up feeling super passionate about it. The liberal arts have introduced me to a lot of classes that I wouldn't have taken otherwise.

"I think some students get discouraged by having to take things outside of their major to fulfill the Miami Plan, but I see it as a benefit. There are so many courses in general at Miami that I was able to find ways to apply to my major that I hadn't thought of before. The liberal arts pushes you to think outside of the traditional boundaries of your major, and I was inspired to refocus my disciplines after my marine ecology study abroad trip — which I originally joined for credit because I didn't want to study science in a classroom! In the end, the trip totally changed how I pursue my Miami education. Taking a class outside your major may make you think about your major in a new or different way.

"Because I have a lot of interests, the thought of picking one major sounded impossible. The liberal arts, and especially the Western Program, allow me to do everything I love and figure out how to combine things. If there is a class that looks really special, it can motivate me to pick more in that specific area — ultimately, I get to do what I love.

"My WST 231 [Interdisciplinary Inquiry] was on interdisciplinary research, and everyone got to pick a research project and work on it throughout the semester. WST 341 [Interdisciplinary Synthesis and Action], focused on service learning, and we got to help out the Miami Institute for Food farm. No two Western classes are ever the same!

"Outside my major, I really enjoyed my introductory creative writing class, ENG 226 [Introduction to Creative Writing: Short Fiction and Poetry]. Our professor, TaraShea Nesbit, gave awesome feedback and really nurtured our creativity."

Studying the Effects of Hurricanes on Trees in the Bahamas

Arcadia describes her tropical marine ecology course in Florida and the Bahamas.

Staying in Touch at Miami and Globally Video Transcript

Advice to Students

"Don't get discouraged by the Miami Plan or CAS academic requirements, because the many different options give you a great opportunity to discover new interests. Even if it seems hard to plan, you should go for anything you are passionate about. Try to find something that is both interesting and challenging. Instead of seeing it as an obligation, try seeing it as an opportunity!

"For me, the Western Program was intimidating at first, and it definitely can be for others. There are people who like having a set course list, and that's fine, but I think there is something special about getting to design your own course list yourself. You aren't being told what to do, but the Western advisors are really amazing and supportive — they aren't just going to set you loose and say 'good luck.'

"And because the Western Program allows you to design your own capstone, you can say you've completed a significant research project in your field, even as an undergrad. It can be a big challenge, but that just makes the reward even more worth it! And because you design the project yourself, you'll love what you're doing!"

[March 2018]