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Childhood dream comes true with help of VCU

March 4, 2015

Jenna Dodson has known she wanted to be in the Peace Corps since fifth grade, when she came to understand the need for help in places not as affluent, specifically Africa. Following high school, and having received the Provost Scholarship from VCU, she settled into an environmental studies major during her freshman year. According to Dodson, “It ended up being the perfect choice, as I continued to learn about the growing problems of today’s world, both environmental and economic, and the incredible gap between first and third world countries.

Dodson has taken advantage of the many opportunities presented to her at VCU, including the ISEP Exchange program, and in the spring of 2012 studied abroad at Massey University in New Zealand. Upon returning from New Zealand, she began working at the Campus Learning Center as a biology/chemistry tutor, continuing to develop her teaching skills. The next summer, she was awarded an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) Summer Fellowship and began exploring her interest in research by working on the Prothonotary warbler project, an ongoing, international research initiative based at the VCU Rice Rivers Center.

This led to Dodson’s pursuit of a Master of Science in Environmental Studies through the accelerated program where her thesis research under Dr. Lesley Bulluck addresses foraging and breeding ecology of Prothonotary Warblers. She was given the opportunity to participate in the Panama Avian Field Ecology course two years in a row, the first year (2013-2014) as a student, and the following year (2014-2015) as a teaching assistant. In the first semester of this year, Dodson was a teaching assistant for Earth Systems Science, and this semester is a teaching assistant for Panama Avian Field Ecology and Oceanography. In addition to her assistantships, Dodson transitioned from tutoring undergraduates to improving literacy in a second grade elementary school classroom through VCU AmeriCorps. Dr. Bulluck adds what Dodson does not volunteer, “As an undergraduate, Jenna also was a music minor and captain of the VCU women’s crew team…all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.”

Dodson notes, “All of these opportunities VCU provided along the way have allowed me to further my education, further develop my teaching and leadership skills with a wide student demographic, and solidify my passion for communicating science, creating a perfect foundation for an Environment Sector Peace Corps volunteer.”

Beginning in September of this year, Dodson will be an Agroforestry Extension Agent in Senegal, West Africa for a 2 year, 3 month term of service. Her main role will be to increase food security by focusing on the establishment of multi-purpose tree species, fruit tree propagation and orchard management. She will be organizing formal trainings, one-on-one instruction, and demonstrations that assist local farmers to acquire the technical skills they need to establish their own tree nurseries and out-plant the seedlings produced.

VCU congratulates Ms. Dodson on her hard work and achievements, and we wish her well in her new role.

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