Mellanie Herard is on the path to achieving her dreams with help from caring professors and Samford’s STEM Scholars Program.
The program, funded by a five-year National Science Foundation grant, helps academically talented and financially at-risk transfer students from local community colleges complete Samford degrees in the fields of biology, environmental science, chemistry and biochemistry. STEM Scholars are chosen on the basis of academic achievement, unmet financial need, and potential for success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.
Herard learned about the opportunity when Samford biology professor Elizabeth G. Dobbins came to speak to her class at Jefferson State Community College.
“It sounded like a great opportunity, so I came for a tour,” said Herard. “I was only on campus for maybe a half an hour before I knew that this was the school for me.”
She is currently pursuing a biology degree with a focus in genetics, and plans to get her master’s degree and eventually a Ph.D. In addition to juggling a full class load and working toward graduation in May of 2017, Herard is also mom to 10-year-old son Jeremy.
“He does Cub Scouts year round, and baseball, track and football seasonally,” said Herard. “After I get him to bed, I do my homework and studying.” Herard’s classes include Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Spanish 203 and Yoga. She also is taking Anatomy and a Spanish Lab.
“The most challenging part has been the transition from a smaller school and balancing my home life with 17–18 credit hour semesters of upper-level classes,” said Herard. She has excelled in balancing all this, though, and has been named Samford’s first STEM Honors Scholar as a result.
Two sources of constant encouragement and friendship during Herard’s journey are Dobbins and biology professor Rita Malia Fincher.
“Dr. Dobbins and Dr. Fincher are amazing,” said Herard. “They have been with me through everything, and are always just an e-mail or phone call away. They truly care about our success, and they invest an amazing amount of time and effort into us.”
Herard has taken a class with Dobbins, whom she describes as “an amazing teacher.” She has also taken foundations and research STEM classes with Fincher, who has offered her a great deal of advice as she prepares for a career postgraduation.
“Mellanie Herard is a wonderful student, and a person of great drive and determination,” said Dobbins. “Having succeeded first at community college and now at Samford, she desires to get a Ph.D. to help answer questions about the genetic inheritance of disease. With her intelligence, confidence and new vision of her opportunities, Mellanie will achieve her dreams, and we will all be enriched.”
Olivia Williams is a journalism and mass communication major and a news and feature writer in the Division of Marketing and Communication.