By Whitney Baxter
If there is one thing Jen Merryman has learned through the years, it is that life changes.
Merryman, a senior in forestry, will share that message with fellow graduating students at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences convocation Friday, Dec. 16 at 10 a.m. in Hilton Coliseum.
A non-traditional student, Merryman initially enrolled in college right after high school at an out-of-state university. Being far away from home played a large role in her decision to put a halt to her college journey.
Merryman accepted a new path. She got married, added two daughters to her family and started a job that offered a lot of flexibility. As her daughters got older, she became actively involved in their education – volunteering for various events and serving on their school’s parent-teacher organization.
A couple of years ago, she and her husband started looking ahead to retirement and thinking about potentially moving to the mountains. Wanting to prepare for a potential move and new job opportunities outside of Iowa, Merryman decided to enroll at Iowa State University during the spring 2020 semester to pursue a forestry degree.
As a student, she became involved with the ISU Forestry Club, organizing the Christmas tree and wreath sales. She has also participated in intramural sports and attended the Society of American Foresters national convention.
“Make connections with fellow students and your professors because it provides you with a network of people to turn to when you need help,” Merryman said.
Two faculty members in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management have had a profound impact on Merryman’s education. One is Dick Schultz, University Professor of natural resource ecology and management. Merryman said she is in awe of the profound impact Schultz has had on people around the world.
“I aspire to be like that. I love the way he teaches,” Merryman said.
The other is Tom Isenhart, professor of natural resource ecology and management. Isenhart said Merryman has been leading a water quality research project this semester with colleagues at the University of Iowa and has been impressed with her work.
“In her typical fashion, she embraced the challenge and has earned the respect of everyone engaged in the project,” Isenhart said. “When I had an opening for a graduate research assistant, current students in my group recommended that we recruit Jen for the position. I am thrilled that she has accepted the challenge and I look forward to watching her continued growth as a researcher and conservation professional.”
With her undergraduate degree nearing completion and plans underway to pursue her master’s in environmental science at Iowa State, Merryman is taking time to reflect on all she has accomplished.
“I set the bar really high for myself when I started at Iowa State,” Merryman said. “Going to school full-time and working full-time, at least during the first part of my degree program, has been incredibly hard, but I’ve been taking time to step back and be impressed with all I’ve accomplished.”
She hopes her daughters will see and understand the dedication she and her husband, who also is taking classes at Iowa State, have put into their education.
“It has been inspirational for our kids to see how hard we’re working,” Merryman said. “I hope they see the importance of going to college and having family nearby who can support them.”