Go With It and Embrace It: Video Transcript

Ryan Batt, PhD (BS Zoology and Environmental Science, Miami, 2009) [marine science Post-Doc at Rutgers University]: Most zoology majors start off at Miami, a lot of them are pre-med or pre-some professional school. That trajectory changed for me after I started working in one of my professor's labs. One day in an ecology class, the professor said, "Does anybody want to work in my lab?" And I said, "Sure!" I didn't even know I was going to be paid for the job, and I started working there. It was a limnology lab, which I didn't know what limnology was at the time – it's the study of inland waters. And I started working in his lab, had my own research project, and even though at the time when I started working there, I was pre-med, I fell in love with the idea of studying the natural world. This could be a lot of fun.

That research wasn't, per se, a course, and it wasn't directly part of a degree requirement, but it was really that experience of sitting in lab meetings with the professor, his grad students, and other undergraduates, going and doing research on Acton Lake in Hueston Woods, that sort of allowed me to experience research in a way that I wouldn't have been able to see otherwise. And I think that's the biggest part of my experience at Miami that really led me down this career path and this sort of life trajectory, if you will.

I think that one of the more frightening things that people confront in their lives is when they think they know something. They think they have a grasp on the world, and then they're confronted with information that contradicts that world. Where you think you know what's going on, and you're surprised to learn that actually you're more ignorant than you realized. We always are; the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know, as the saying goes. And in a liberal arts education, you're confronted with those situations, and that discomfort is rectified by the presentation of knowledge itself.

One of the most surprising, surprisingly valuable experiences that I had at Miami were the classes that I had to take, that I didn't think I wanted to take, and probably didn't want to take for the first few weeks of it. You know, that was, you're put in a classroom situation where you can either go with it and embrace it, or you can fight it and just be miserable. And to my surprise, time and time again I would sit in these classes, and I would learn something. I would become a more well-rounded person.

I took an Interactive Media Studies course, IMS 224. It was a pilot course, a pilot year for the course. It was about digital writing and rhetoric. I majored in zoology and environmental science. I took this class because I needed credits. It was my senior year, I didn't need any credits in anything in particular, and we learned all sorts of principles about design. And in the end, I have actually used those skills to this day when creating scientific presentations or reports, online tutorials that I put in YouTube to instruct colleagues how to use software, perform analyses, or if I'm publishing a journal or article and I want to insert figures of study organisms, statistical displays of the data in Photoshop, for example. I'm extremely glad I gave it a chance, because I still think about it to this day.

I think that one of the most valuable, generic aspects of Miami's resources for students were just open doors, both physically and more abstract sense. Whether it was professor's doors being open or I needed to add a major, change a major, and staff were friendly and had open doors. Or open doors to get involved with student organizations or libraries that are open 24 hours to go study. My lessons there are one, you can meet friends, you can meet people in any place. And also, being a genuine person and presenting your interests as they actually are to the world and to those around you, in the long run, is probably a good thing to do.

[October 2015]