Erin Kress and Kyler Miller paint and stain a bench outside of the Science Center

Erin Kress, '13

Hometown: Jamestown, NY
High School: Jamestown High School
Major: Environmental Science with Honors
Campus: Jamestown

As President of the Jamestown Campus Student Senate at Jamestown Community College, Erin Kress had earned the right to give a speech before her peers at the 2013 commencement ceremony. In it, she discussed the importance of leaving a legacy. She talked about all of the ways she had endeavored to do this both in college and high school. As she listed off her various accomplishments, one thing became abundantly clear. Erin Kress is not one for half measures.

For the last two years, she’s been cementing her legacy at JCC. From taking leadership positions with nearly every group she's been a part of, to bringing outdoor seating to the new Science Center, to helping Campus Life send members of various student groups around the country to conferences and meetings, she’s worked tirelessly to make the college a better place.

But even as she immersed herself in college life, Erin had a hard time determining what field she wanted to study. Riding on the momentum of a fantastic senior year of high school spent taking drama classes, she started at JCC in the liberal arts & sciences: humanities program, with a concentration in English. She also joined the honors program, an experience she described as nothing short of phenomenal.

“When I first was working out my schedule at JCC, I said, ‘OK, what are the cool honors classes I can take?’” recounted Erin. “I got all the way down to the bottom of the list and saw Literature Goes to Hell and I thought that sounded like the coolest class ever.” The course explored the idea of the afterlife in literature and how it has evolved across cultures and throughout time.

But even though she loved her classes in the humanities, it still wasn’t quite what she was looking for. Flipping open the course catalog, she looked at some of her other options. Maybe there was something she had overlooked.

She thought about the subjects that had grabbed her attention when she was young. She had always been fascinated by animals. The way they moved, the way they thought, their different habits and adaptations, all of it intrigued her. So, she thought, why not take an honors course in Conservation Biology? After all, her experience in her last honors courses was incredible. It was, if anything, worth a shot.

Erin Kress signing a commitment to graduate during the SUNY-wide Completion Day

Within ten minutes of her first day of class, she knew she’d found her calling. “That was actually my epiphany moment at JCC. That was when I discovered that this is what I want to do. I had that connection as soon as started reading the first slide in my professor’s presentation.”

She met with Jan Bowman, associate professor of biology, who taught that fateful course. She told Erin that if this was what she really wanted to do, the environmental science program was the perfect fit. Getting all of the necessary credits would be tough, but she knew that Erin was absolutely capable of meeting the requirements.

That was all Erin needed to hear. The next day, she enrolled in the environmental science program.

Erin graduated from JCC with honors in the spring of 2013. The next step: State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where she’ll be studying wildlife science. After that, she plans to pursue her doctorate. Her dream is to be a researcher, studying the behavior of bears and other large predators. "If it can kill you, I want to study it," she said. As she told her fellow graduates at commencement, they’ve only started to build their own legacies, and they're not nearly done leaving their mark.

Advice for students considering your major: “Definitely take in all you can. I know it’s tempting to try and get an easy semester, but the environmental science program is amazing, and it’s worth it to try and get as much information as you can. Botany, Zoology, Chemistry, Biology, even Genetics, which I took and realized that I didn’t know that half of this stuff existed. Just take as much as you can, because the teachers are all absolutely phenomenal.”

Favorite class: “That is really hard. I think Conservation Biology, because every student is searching for that one class that lets them know that they’re on the right path and that five years from now they’re not going to be sitting in an office saying ‘I hate what I do, I hate what I do, Why did I do this?’ With Conservation Biology, I had that epiphany moment and discovered that this is what I want to do.”

Favorite spot on campus: “The senate office. It’s a great place to hang out with students. They can come in and talk with me and about what Student Senate can do for them. It can be relaxing when I want it to be and really active when I want it to be.”

Favorite moment: “That sudden realization halfway through the year when I discovered that I had awesome friends, they’ll support me no matter what, and I’m in an awesome school. It’s kind of that sense of community that you get here at JCC. I’m not here by myself. I can always find something to do if I’m bored. I can always find help if I need it. It was an awesome moment realizing that I’m in a really good college.”

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