Monday, November 12, 2012

College was another chapter of worldwide adventures for Danielle Robinson ’12

The news and photos of flooding and damage caused by Hurricane Sandy bring back memories for Danielle Robinson ’12. About seven years ago, she was in New Orleans slogging through knee-deep mud and trash piles in New Orleans, where she helped gut damaged homes so the rebuilding process could begin after Hurricane Katrina.

Danielle Robinson ’12 helped in the cleanup following
Hurricane Katrina before she came to Randolph.
“It was really the hardest work I’d ever done, suiting up with a mask and hazmat suit and going into someone’s home to face that destruction,” Robinson said. “People’s spirits were so strong. They were fighters.”

At that time, Robinson was a high school graduate postponing college for the chance to see the world. “I was afraid that if I went to school and got a job, I would never get to travel and experience life,” Robinson said. “I decided that I would jump into what I thought was real life.”

A few years later, Robinson finally pursued college, where she learned that higher education would be another chapter of her worldwide adventures.

She studied at Tyler Junior College in Texas for two years, then her family moved to Virginia. She applied to three Virginia colleges and was accepted. Because Randolph was the closest to her family’s new home, she decided to tour here first.

“As soon as I was here and had the tour, I knew this was where I wanted to go,” she said. “I never even visited the other schools.”

Robinson majored in English with an emphasis in creative writing. She remembers her first poetry class, with three other students and professor Jim Peterson. The creative writing faculty helped her fine tune her writing in ways that could not have happened in more crowded classrooms. “They’re published authors who know what they’re doing,” Robinson said.

Robinson presented some of her fiction writing
during the 2012 Symposium of Artists and Scholars
Robinson also worked on research outside her major. Last December, she traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands with a group from Randolph to test for links between human-caused bacteria and the degradation of coral reefs around the island. Her task was to document the research with photos and writing, but she worked on the research, too.

“I always think it’s great to work with people in other disciplines,” she said. “They had so much to teach me, and my questions made them think of something they hadn’t thought about. Even though I wasn’t a science major, I felt like I was still valuable.”

When Robinson graduated, she was hired as an assistant for the College’s new Center for Student Research. The Center administers three programs—Summer Research, which lets students and professors work on projects together during the break; Randolph’s Innovative Student Experience (RISE), which gives students money to pursue research and creative projects; and the Symposium of Artists and Scholars, an annual event celebrating the best work among Randolph students.

Robinson also plays a role in running the American Culture Program and Passport, a new first-year experience program.

She felt like working in the new center would be a good way to contribute to the atmosphere that had helped her thrive as a student. She hopes her efforts help students become more involved in research.

“Research doesn’t have to be just in the sciences; it also can be in the arts and humanities,” Robinson said. “I want to generate that awareness that it doesn't matter what your major is, you can conduct very successful research in your field.”