Meet Jennifer Dixon!
Preparing Future Leaders (PFL) is a premier leadership community that exemplifies creative engagement, reflective practice, and multidisciplinary collaboration. The PFL leadership teams delivers evidence-based programming in mentoring, scholarship, teaching, professional development, and personal development. Since 2007, PFL team members have offered more than 500 professional development events for more than 15,000 graduate students, and PFL has become a nationally recognized model for enhancing graduate student success.
The PFL Ambassadors includes a group of ten graduate students from different disciplines who have been invited to represent PFL, connect with other graduate students, and enhance their own leadership skills. Through the Ambassadors program, they will be able to develop advanced leadership and communication skill and expand on the knowledge they have already gained by participating in PFL events and programs.
Jennifer Dixon was first introduced to Preparing Future Leaders (PFL) while taking a course in Geoscience Teaching and Research in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Science. From there she went on to complete the Preparing the Professoriate (PTP) program, which she credits to helping her become a stronger teacher and leader. Now as a new PFL ambassador, Jennifer hopes to offer others her love for communicating science whether it is through lecture, field work, or art and her ability to build bridges between disciplines in creative ways that enhance interdisciplinary work.
Jennifer had never lived away from the coast until moving to Durham to take a job working for the Durham Museum of Life and Science, so it seems natural that she ultimately ended up studying the ocean. A native of Morehead City, North Carolina, Jennifer says, “when I was a kid I used to do beach walks looking for sea turtle nests.” This fascination with the marine science only grew as she participated in the Duke Tip Program when she was in middle school, giving her the opportunity to complete field work with Duke scientists.
Despite her early love of the ocean, however, Jennifer began college at University of North Carolina-Wilmington as a fine arts major, which combined her love of painting, drawing, and photography. She continued on this path for three years until she took an introductory environmental studies class and was reminded how much she loved the field. She soon became an environmental studies major with a minor in chemistry, though she has continued to take art classes throughout all of her degrees. Following completion of her undergrad, Jennifer continued at UNC-Wilmington to complete a master’s degree in marine science with a chemistry concentration.
Jennifer’s journey to NC State, where she is now a PhD student studying marine science with a concentration in chemistry, happened by chance. She explains, “I had just moved to Durham…when I received an email from one of my previous master’s committee members introducing me to my current advisor, Dr. Chris Osburn. He had just started at NC State and was looking for new students. I always knew I wanted to get my PhD. The rest is history.”
When questioned about the most fulfilling part of her graduate studies, Jennifer answers enthusiastically, “the communicating!” “I know that sounds odd,” Jennifer explains, “but I love teaching and talking about science, and I have made it my mantra to find a way to make the material I teach or the research I do applicable to undergraduates, my family, and my running friends!” A first-generation college student, Jennifer says “[her] parents are two of the smartest, most generous, and hardest working people” she knows. Jennifer believes that no matter what she studies, it would be pointless if she could not share it with them. “They inspire me and they drive me to discover new ways to teach people and communicate what I do,” she says. Accordingly, she finds joy in engaging “undergraduate business majors or someone who studies philosophy” in her field. “I often think we separate out fields too much when in reality there is so much overlap,” she asserts. When asked about the least exciting part of her graduate studies, Jennifer only expresses distaste for washing laboratory dishes. “I honestly love about everything I do,” Jennifer reassures, “or I wouldn’t be doing it.”
Jennifer’s passions outside of schoolwork include running, good music (specifically bluegrass), her family and friends, and the ocean, all of which she believes have the power to “heal the soul.” Additionally, after working at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital for seven years, Jennifer has also developed quite the love for sea turtles, of course not to exceed that which she has for her Great Dane, Lola, and husband, Josh, of nearly two years.
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