This story appeared in the winter issue of Titan magazine as one of four features on students finding a path to success at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. The others are available here.
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Senior anthropology and environmental studies major Moriah Weeks brought the seeds of success with her to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh—a strong Christian faith, a desire to explore and a love of nature that sprouted from her involvement with youth conservation in her hometown of Milwaukee.
Weeks arrived on the Oshkosh campus in summer 2019 to take part in the Titan Advantage Program (TAP)—an intensive six-week jump start on the transition from high school to college. Participants learn test-taking and goal-setting strategies; enhance their math, writing and critical-thinking skills; and make crucial connections with faculty, staff and peer mentors all while earning college credits.
“TAP is a really fun chance to get familiar with campus, get to know some professors and make some friends the summer before your first year,” Weeks explained.
In a world ethnography class, Weeks met UW Oshkosh cultural anthropologist Heidi Nicholls. They quickly formed a strong bond.
“In my class, Moriah was quiet and fierce. When she spoke, it held a certain gentle power wrapped in beauty and compassion for the material, the subject of focus,” Nicholls said. “She was—and is—a high scoring student, a supportive, encouraging classmate and an engaged world citizen who wants to make a difference in this world for better, for all.”
Weeks earned TAP’s Academic Achievement Award that summer and gained an interest in anthropology that grew by her junior year into a second major.
“Dr. Nicholls is very supportive and helpful. I have taken her classes through the years,” she said. “She’s my favorite.”
At UWO, Weeks has explored an interest in bee keeping, built a network of support through Impact—a campus ministry geared toward Black students—and recently began working in the coffee house in Reeve Memorial Union.
Another early connection—help moving into South Gruenhagen Hall her first fall from UWO McNair Scholars Program director Cordelia Bowlus—offered Weeks another opportunity to grow her college experience.
“When you are in the business of supporting students, it’s important to be visible,” Bowlus said. “Assisting with move-in and attending campus events are ways of building rapport with students, so they are much more likely to feel comfortable stopping by the spaces we occupy.”
Bowlus shared information with Weeks about McNair, which helps high-achieving, first-generation, low-income and racially minoritized undergraduate students prepare for graduate school.
Weeks tucked that information away until last spring when she applied and was accepted into the program that includes a paid summer internship with a faculty mentor.
Last summer, Weeks worked with anthropologist Stephanie Spehar on a research project considering the impact of community gardens on participants. The two studied the plots on campus to understand why sustainable agriculture matters, why people rent the spaces and what they gain from gardening.
Bowlus noted that academic writing and public speaking do not come easily for Weeks.
“But her passion for learning more about sustainable agriculture and the social, health and environmental benefits of community gardening proved a huge motivational force for her,” she said. “By the end of the summer, Moriah had come out of her shell and could present her research with confidence.”
Weeks said the McNair Scholar experience has helped her solidify a plan to further her education. After a gap year for travel, she plans to attend graduate school for agricultural education—with the goal of working at a nature preserve and leading educational field trips.
“I realized I really like to be outside experiencing my surroundings and working with kids,” she said.
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