July 1, 2021 Washtenaw Community College
Sabrina Lanker started her academic journey at Washtenaw Community College not knowing exactly what she wanted to study or do for a living.
She considered being a science teacher, primarily because of the positive influence Pinckney High School teacher Penny Ventrone—also a part-time instructor at WCC—had on her. It was Ventrone, in fact, who first encouraged Lanker and some of her classmates to consider WCC.
But a geology class intended for future teachers piqued Lanker’s interest. “I ended up loving geology way more than I loved education, so I changed my major and career path,” Lanker said.
She took most of the geology courses WCC offers on her way to earning a General Studies in Math and Natural Sciences associate degree in December and is heading off to study Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Michigan this fall, with hopes of one day performing fieldwork for the National Park Service or the U.S. Geological Survey.
Once her course of study was determined, Lanker maximized her time at WCC by participating in the college’s STEM Scholars program, founding a Spanish conversation club, serving as a vice president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, contributing to the Campus Vote Project and working part-time jobs in the Student Activities department and at the WCC Health & Fitness Center.
“Community colleges don’t get as much praise as four-year universities, but you can have just as many experiences and opportunities,” said the 21-year-old Whitmore Lake resident. “You get what you put in. I turned WCC into the best thing in the world for me. You can just go to class and then go home, or you can turn it into a great experience.”
Before starting classes at U-M, Lanker is participating in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates in Sisimiut, Greenland from July 12 to August 12. She will be the only community college student among the cohort studying how earthquake ruptures propagate through bedrock in the deeper reaches of Earth’s crust.
So while Michiganders are enjoying the state’s peak temperatures, Lanker will be conducting on-site field research in 50-degree weather and bracing for the potential of overnight below-freezing temperatures in her tent.
“I’m not a huge fan of hot weather, anyway,” she said with a laugh. “It’ll be jeans and a hoodie weather every day, which is the best weather for me.”
Being in the WCC STEM Scholars program—which encourages, supports and facilitates success for students interested in STEM careers—brought the National Science Foundation internship to Lanker’s attention.
“I’m excited to gain the skills and knowledge about what happens in the day-to-day life of a geologist,” Lanker said. “I also want to reassure myself this is really what I want to do. Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? Or maybe there’s a different part of geology that’s a better path for me?”
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