It’s true, students at The University of Olivet benefit from all the best perks of going to a small college. With individualized attention and the opportunity to make connections with professors, the education you earn at Olivet is unrivaled by others. Just ask junior Julie Crone, a double major in biology and environmental science, who has excelled in her studies, something for which she credits her professors.
Julie knew that a small college would be the best fit for her after her brother’s experience at a university with more than 40,000 students enrolled. “I really enjoy the small class sizes at Olivet,” said Julie. “I’m so glad I’m not sitting in a crowd in a big lecture hall. The ability to ask questions in the classroom while my professors are teaching has really helped me succeed. Just knowing my professors in general and being able to pop into their office has been really beneficial as well.”
Julie quickly found her fit in the biology program during her first year. “One of my favorite things is how welcoming the atmosphere is,” said Julie. “Coming to college, I think most young students are shy and insecure, but the biology program really draws people in and breaks down their walls, something I’ve experienced firsthand.” Currently, Julie enjoys her student-worker position for the Natural and Physical Sciences Department, caring for the many animals homed at Mott Academic Building, including JoJo the tortoise who is often spotted roaming the hallways. In addition, she also frequently visits Olivet’s biological field station, Kirkelldel Biological Preserve, to perform research. In recognition of her involvement in the campus community and dedication to academics, Julie was awarded the David Cutler Fellowship at the end of her sophomore year.
Created to honor alumnus David Cutler ’65, the fellowship is an annual merit award given to a junior or senior majoring in math, science or computer science. The award was presented to Julie with the expectation that she make a substantial contribution in her field of study during her year as a Cutler Fellow.
“It was a great honor to be given this opportunity,” said Julie. “I was incredibly thankful that my professors thought highly enough to nominate me for this award that I knew I couldn’t let them down.”
Julie brainstormed projects within the realm of her major and interests that would benefit others and have a lasting impact. She settled on a building a deer exclosure at Kirkelldel with the purpose to block off a specific segment of land from the harshness of deer grazing. Presently, there is an overpopulation of white-tailed deer in Michigan due to a lack of natural predators, in particular the wolf. In result, the deer are overgrazing forests and have a tendency to devour native plant species while avoiding invasive species, causing serious damage to forest undergrowth.
Leah Knapp, D.V.M., professor of biology, and other faculty members backed Julie’s plan from the beginning, and she was able to purchase the supplies to build the exclosure with her fellowship award. This past spring Service Day, with a little help from Earthbound, a student group dedicated to raising awareness on environmental issues, Julie built the 20 by 30 foot mainframe for the exclosure. A few days later, she completed the eight-foot-high fencing.
“I have really enjoyed working with Julie, both in class and in her co-curricular activities. I was very pleased she chose me to work with her on her Cutler project, though, as self-starting and as bright as she is, once I helped her to get her project roughly hammered out, she has just run with it,” said Knapp. “Julie is an amazing student with a broad range of interests. She loves to learn about a wide variety of subjects, and constantly challenges herself to know and understand well beyond what is required for her classes.”
Over time, the exclosure will be restored to a natural habitat untouched by deer. Julie hopes that not only will this provide a wealth of knowledge to The University of Olivet students, but that it will also attract attention from larger conservation groups, such as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Her ultimate goal is to influence others to understand the importance of reducing Michigan’s deer population.
Julie is set on a career in environmental conservation, and while she’s keeping her options open for now, she said, “As long as I’m working outside and making a difference, nothing else matters.” This summer, she will intern at the Mid-Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area. She will assist in community outreach programs to raise awareness about invasive species and the role the public can play to prevent further damage. And after graduation, thanks to the resources provided to Julie as part of the Cutler Fellowship, she plans to earn a master’s degree from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.
Over Homecoming Weekend 2016, Julie had the privilege of having breakfast with Dave Cutler himself. “I was a little star struck to be around Mr. Cutler,” Julie said. “He’s really down to earth and it’s evident how much he cares about The University of Olivet. I am inspired to maintain the same attitude and beliefs.” Cutler, a 1965 graduate, earned a degree in mathematics. He began his a career with Microsoft in 1988 and currently serves the company as senior technical fellow. He is considered a rock star among software programmers and engineers.