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Unearthing Her Passion at Polk

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

In the cozy confines of a Polk State College classroom, Robin Savage found apprehension dissolving
and a newfound passion emerge for a subject she never dreamed she would love!

When it came time to choose a college, Carolyn “Robin” Savage had a world of possibilities at her fingertips. As valedictorian for the Auburndale High School class of 2011, she had her pick of many different colleges and universities to attend. But staying in Polk County was important to her, and so was a classroom experience that was intimate and personal. Thus, Polk State College earned its place at the top of her list.

“I have a great support system with my family, which is why I wanted to go to school locally. Polk has small class sizes, which made this the logical choice for me,” Robin explained.

After spending some time at Polk State as a dual-enrolled student, Robin focused on majoring in liberal arts. Closing in on graduation with a Liberal Arts AA degree, Robin took Honors courses in Fall 2011. One of these was an Honors Biological Issues course – a class she was not exactly ready to embrace with open arms.

“I have always been intimidated by math and science, and never really had an interest in science,” recalls Robin.

And then something incredible happened. The stimulating environment of the close-knit classroom interaction, led by a professor whose zeal for the subject was contagious, turned Robin’s expectations for the class upside down. Before long, Robin had discovered an ability and a passion within herself that she never imagined existed.

“This Biological Issues class was a very small class, which led to a large amount of class discussion. Professor Colleen Caldecutt had such a passion and enthusiasm for the topic that I decided to switch my major,” Robin said.

Filled with the excitement of embarking on a new career and a new life, Robin jumped in with both feet. She delved into her studies full force, taking an Honors Independent Directed Study course with Caldecutt, where she researched topics related to human sex determination, including brain and gonadal sex development, neuroendocrinology, and the effects of environmental endocrine disrupters. She presented her research at the Honors Academic Showcase at Polk State, and presented her work at the Florida Collegiate Honors Council Conference.

Changing her major meant more classes, so Robin applied for scholarships through the Polk State College Foundation. Having found her calling, the last thing she wanted was a financial obstacle to prevent her from reaching her goals. Fortunately, as the recipient of the Ray & Anna Martin Honors Scholarship in 2012 and the John Carleton Nydeggar Memorial Scholarship in 2013, Robin is able to focus on her classes.

“With a focus now on Biology, I have more directed studies courses I want to take in order to conduct more research. I have a great sense of appreciation for the Foundation scholarships that have allowed me to not worry about funding my classes,” said Robin.

Inspired by how faculty at Polk State fired up her newfound passion, Robin is enthusiastic about paying it forward and helping other Polk students blossom. When she is not taking classes, Robin is busy in her position as President of the Honors Program Student Council. Robin has worked with Dean Patricia Jones and Kelly McDavid to help improve the Honors Program, and credits both of them for serving as the backbone of the group. Notes Robin, “We sent over twenty students to this year’s Florida Collegiate Honors Council Conference, which is twice the number we sent last year. I want to continue working to improve this group so that it continues to grow.”

With an anticipated graduation date of Spring 2014, Robin plans to pursue research or medicine in her studies–perhaps both. In the meantime, she hopes to develop a student research community at Polk State. She knows that with supportive faculty and intimate class settings, there is a great opportunity for her to both learn and give back. “Having faculty like Professor Caldecutt, who believe in me and are willing to do extra work to help me with my research, gives me the drive to want to give back to the College and help other students develop an interest in research.”