Erin Graves (Class of 2018)

photo of Erin Graves

  • senior Geology major, with an Environmental Science co-major
  • from Bowling Green, OH
  • visited Joshua Tree National Park, Red River Gorge, and the Bahamas as member of Miami University Geological Society
  • President of the Miami University EcoReps, which provided and distributed 2700 reusable water bottles to students in two years
"My advice is simple: just go for it! I have had nothing but positive experiences at Miami and my department. Students should take risks, because they lead to great experiences and growth as individuals. This is really important, because as college students that's what we are supposed to be doing!"

Why Miami?

"When I was in high school, I didn't know what I wanted in a college. Initially I went with what my parents and teachers recommended, but I did some research on Miami after visiting campus for Make It Miami and learned about Miami's high national rank for undergraduate teaching, with professors who are fantastic at what they do, and that was really exciting for me.

Erin Graves enjoys the autumn colors in Red River Gorge, Kentucky.

"I had a rough time during my first year, to be honest. I came in as a biology major wanting to become a veterinarian, but I didn't feel that it fit me, and that impacted a lot other things in my life. Like a lot of science majors, biology was really hard the first year to make sure students are committed, but after switching during my sophomore year, I felt a lot happier. First I switched to environmental earth science, but as I became more familiar with the Department of Geology and Environmental Earth Science, I decided to change to a geology major with the environmental science co-major.

"One of the major experiences that influenced my decision was joining an environmental organization, EcoReps, and one of the student executive members recommended that I check out geology. Then, the summer before my sophomore year, I went to Alaska to do a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) course. I got to backpack, sea kayak, and mountaineer, all surrounded by beautiful wilderness with 23 hours of daylight. That was the first time that I really got to immerse myself in nature.

"The geology department is a really close knit group of people. The undergrads interact with the professors and the graduate students with a really great sense of community, something I don't think that every department has. It makes me feel really special and grateful to be part of a community of such wonderful and intelligent people who educate and challenge me!"

Best Miami Experiences

"Last fall I worked with Liz Widom, professor and chair of the Department of Geology and Environmental Earth Science, as an undergraduate associate position for her introductory geology seminar class. Having this hands-on experience with her was a great learning experience.

"Beyond the classroom, for over 3 years I've been the president of EcoReps, which makes up part of the community leadership team in every residence hall. We go into various residence halls to conduct what we call 'trash audits,' where we weigh the trash collected in the receiving area and pick through it all to find things that could have been recycled. We then weigh the recyclable trash to see its percentage of the total trash, and we find that a lot of students are not even recycling the disposable, plastic water bottles.

"Our solution to this issue was to create special water bottles. We fundraised for a semester, ordered 1,000 water bottles in 2016, and made them available for free at Mega Fair. They were gone in like 30 minutes! It was great, and now I see them all over campus.

"Rob Abowitz, Miami's associate director of Residence Life, is also the advisor for EcoReps, and I meet with him every week. He has been a really positive mentor when it comes to my academics and career goals.

Erin Graves shows her Miami pride in Joshua Tree National Park, California.

"When I switched my majors, I was invited to join the Miami University Geological Society, or MUGS, which puts together annual spring break trips as well as little ones in the fall to places like Red River Gorge or Hocking Hills. For my first spring trip with MUGS during my sophomore year, we went to Joshua Tree National Park in California.

"MUGS is open to undergrads, graduate students, professors, and anyone else interested at all in geology and environmental earth science. Each year we go on trips to places that are geologically well known, often as part of the Department of Geology amd Environmental Earth Science's annual spring break field trip. Last year, assistant professor of geology Carrie Tyler arranged for us to go to San Salvador in the Bahamas, where we stayed at the Gerace Research Center and got to see coral reefs. It's really awesome to be able to interact with professors and fellow students in a casual setting where we're doing a lot of the same stuff that we do in the classroom. We get to be outside, not worry about school, and get our hands dirty by applying everything that we've learned to the real world. And this spring break, professor of geology John Rakovan is planning our trip to central New Mexico and the Rio Grande Rift Valley!

"Outside of everything that I am learning in my geology and environmental science classes, I feel that my experiences with EcoReps and MUGS have helped me to interact with a lot of different types of people and prepare for the real world. I would like to do something in the environmental policy field, so these experiences are really going to come in handy in my career."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"Geology and its related disciplines are applicable to a lot of different areas, and that is what I appreciate about it. It's not just research-focused, although I appreciate the research, but it also has direct connections with engineering, business, and economics. It involves a lot of working with people, as well. The best thing about the geology and environmental science degrees is that they can take you wherever you need to go.

"One class that I really loved was Igneous/Metamorphic Petrology [GEO 357], taught by assistant professor of geology Claire McCloud. She was really fantastic, and I really appreciate her as a person. What was really inspiring to me was seeing someone so young teaching at a place like Miami — she just appears to have achieved so many goals for her life. Even though the focus of the class itself was great, it was her exuberance that has really made a lasting impression on me.

"And because I've been taking a lot of classes in different areas, I feel that being a liberal arts student has given me a really good perspective on the world. This leads to becoming a well-rounded person — and not just me but the entire university. At Miami I feel you can sit down with anyone and have a real conversation with them. In today's world, being open-minded and communicative is really going to come in handy, and a lot of those skills develop from the liberal arts.

"One of my favorite classes outside my majors was senior lecturer of biology David Russell's Ornithology class (BIO 408), which is about birds. Not only did I get to learn really great things about birds, including how to identify their chirping, but I also saw Dr. Russell's passion for what he does — and that may have been more beneficial to me than the awesome class material. It's really powerful to see someone who loves what he does so much excitedly share that with the world in a positive way. I feel my take-away from that is wanting to become that passionate in my own field and be able to share that passion with people around me."

Reducing Waste and Increasing Recycling

Erin describes working with the EcoReps leadership team to reduce waste and increase recycling within the residence halls.

Environmentally Focused Video Transcript

Advice to Students

"My advice is simple: just go for it! I have had nothing but positive experiences at Miami and my department. Students should take risks, because they lead to great experiences and growth as individuals. This is really important, because as college students that's what we are supposed to be doing!

"Lean into your interests, discover something that pushes you outside your comfort zone, and get involved. You never know where those new experiences and skills and perspectives are going to take you!"

[February 2018]