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Letise LaFeir

Field: Marine Biology

SR-EIP: Brown University (1999)
Undergrad: Brown University (2000)
Graduate School: University of Delaware (2005)
Current Position: Policy Analyst, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

Could you talk about any memorable experiences from your summer research at Brown University?
In general, I will likely never forget my SR-EIP experience.  Some highlights include: 1) doing independent research that led to a longer term effort for my undergraduate senior thesis and gave me a chance to work with more senior scientists (graduate students and professors) both on and off Brown’s campus; 2) meeting some great people who became good friends, including my roommate from that summer who was later a bridesmaid in my wedding; and 3) going to the national Leadership Alliance conference to meet and network with other students and mentors.

What skills were you able to apply to your collegiate work upon returning to your undergraduate institution?
As mentioned above, I was able to extend the work I did that summer into a broader research project that resulted in a senior thesis.  The spring following SR-EIP (Jan.-June 2000), I also went on to do research as part of a study away at a marine science lab in Washington (Shannon Point Marine Center, Anacortes, WA).  Skills that I strengthened during SR-EIP, including time-management, analysis, ability to work well with others, presentation skills, etc., were helpful in successfully completing both of these endeavors.  

Can you talk about how your summer experience prepared you for graduate school?
The experience helped me decide that I wanted to do research and wanted to pursue a PhD.  Similar skills as described in  the previous question were applied to my graduate school work.  

Can you talk about the role of mentorship in your career?
There is no doubt that I have experienced the successes I have had with strong support from several positive mentors, including my SR-EIP (and undergraduate) advisor at Brown, Dr. Mark Bertness.  The line of mentors extends from my mother, to certain teachers, to Dr. Bertness, to the director of the undergraduate program at Shannon Point, and many more.  They helped answer questions I had, helped me make certain decisions, helped me see the potential in myself, encouraged me to seek out certain opportunities, etc.  In a nutshell, they pushed me to reach for the moon, while also keeping me grounded.

What advice would you give to this year’s Leadership Alliance participants?
Get as much as you can out of the experience, even beyond the obvious research work--develop relationships with the people you meet, explore the new environment around you (campus, city, etc.), be open minded about how this program might lead to other opportunities, and have fun.

Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
I really appreciate the way Leadership Alliance stays in touch with past participants.  I have been invited to speak at other SR-EIP conferences, honored as part of the first 100 PhD’s, profiled in video (and now in this interview), and interacted with LA staff at other events.  I feel as if I can count on LA to continue to support my career for many years to come, even though it’s already been more than 10 years since I participated in SR-EIP.  Kudos to LA for making it a priority to maintain a connection to all of its students as much as possible.