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Emma Brown

Emma Brown

Americorps VISTA

Americorps, Western South Dakota Community Action Center


"My biggest fear was choosing the wrong position. I felt like whatever I career I chose would be my path for the rest of my life. It actually wasn’t until a phone call with a mentor over this past summer that I realized how untrue that thought was. My advice is the same advice she gave me, “Picture where you want to be in 10-15 years, then picture what skillsets you’ll need for that position, or just which ones you’ll want to have cultivated by then. It doesn’t matter what kind of jobs you take on as long as each one will help you grow in at least one of those areas.” You’re young, you have a lot of time to pick a career path and honestly, you don’t really know what you want to do until you’re doing it."

What was your major/minor at Purdue and when did you graduate?

Majors: Chemistry; German Minor: None Graduated: May 2018

What was your most compelling class and why?

This was a tough question, but I’d have to go with CHM34200: Inorganic Chemistry 2. Professor Wilker was hands down one of the (if not the) best professors I’ve had. He is so passionate about science, in the same way that I am. Anything that’s weird or unexpected in chemistry is the coolest thing to me and gets me so excited. He really focused on the exciting parts of what inorganic chemistry can do. After 3 and a half years of straight jam-packing information into my brain and focusing on how to apply stuff to research for graduate school, it was really fun to have a professor who wanted to see us succeed and also see us enjoy learning.

What are you currently working on?

We work with low-income populations on a wide variety of things, everything from weatherization of homes to swim passes for kids in the summer. My project is food security, and over the next 1-2 years I will be hopefully building 2-4 new community gardens across the western half of South Dakota!

What drove you to pursue your current career path?

I wanted to gain some real-world experience before going to graduate school, and also pay back my loans. I worked at a start-up for about 5 months, but it ended up being an incredible toxic environment. After leaving, I started to look for paths that allowed me to make a difference in the lives of others, and I ended up here!

Did you pursue internships/co-ops, research experiences, volunteer, or join student organizations while you attended Purdue?

My one regret is not doing a summer internship. I did work in a research lab my freshman year and I found out pretty quickly that working in a lab full time was not for me. I was a part of the Women In Science Program (WISP) Learning Community when I was a freshman, which gave me one of my best friends and my roommate for all 4 years. I also started the Campus Cursive chapter at Purdue and organized the collection of over 400 letters of thanks for active duty soldiers serving overseas (Scripting for Soldiers). That was a great experience to talk about because it showed my ability to organize and execute large projects. Also studying abroad was beneficial, in addition to being able to talk about the fact that I’m bilingual, it was a way to show that I can adapt to new circumstances and have pretty good cultural awareness.

Are there any special accomplishments you've achieved after college that you might not have been able to do without your college experiences?

Definitely moving across the country. I’m from Buffalo, NY so moving to Indiana for school was a first for me, but Purdue was hands-down the best decision I ever made. Knowing how amazing that experience was, even though it was a little scary at first, made me way more confident when deciding to do things that are a little scary. For example, moving to Germany for 5 months to study abroad. The experiences I had from both of those moves made me almost fearless while driving the 22 hours to get to Rapid City.

What advice would you give to prospective or current Purdue students about how to make the best use of what Purdue offers?

TALK TO EVERYONE. One of the best parts about Purdue is that it’s not that weird to strike up conversation with the person sitting next to you in the dining court. You never know what kind of things you could learn or what doors you could open up for yourself. Plus, once you graduate into the adult world that kind of open communication with strangers is way rarer. Take advantage of meeting people while you have the chance!

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