Paying it Forward
MS in Biology
Maureen Leupold ’83 believes her success as a college professor can be attributed to the many doors that were open to her during her studies at Brockport. Professors and colleagues believed in her and helped inspire her philosophy of “living in gratitude.”
But Maureen’s passion for learning did not spark early in her academic career. Like many young people, she received poor grades for what she remembers as a lack of motivation. But despite her relative disinterest in school, her fascination with biology took shape while working at her father’s tree nursery and greenhouse business. “I realized I wanted to learn everything I could about plants, and I became fascinated with how they grow and reproduce,” she says.
Following her newfound interest, Maureen soon enrolled at Genesee Community College (GCC) and earned her associate’s degree. She then transferred to The College at Brockport to continue her studies in Biology and Aquatic Biology. At Brockport, she was presented with numerous internship opportunities, including working as a research assistant on an environmental impact study about the dredging of Buffalo River and harbor. There she studied a wide variety of plants, birds and freshwater organisms. “I was given major responsibility in mapping areas and identifying plants that were part of the study,” she says. “I got hands-on experience from the get-go!”
Maureen recalls the mentorship of Brockport’s Dr. Makarewicz. “He made an effort to get to know me,” she says. “He also gave me plenty of research opportunities to further my education outside the classroom. He believed in me when I had doubts about myself.”
Looking to inspire the same love of biology she discovered working for her father, Maureen returned to Brockport to earn her teaching certificate in Secondary Science. She is currently a full Professor of Biology at GCC. She considers the opportunity to teach biology to others her greatest accomplishment. “The best part [of my job] is getting to know my students and doing for others what was done for me,” she says. “I’ve been able to guide many students to independent research projects. It’s allowed me to ‘pay it forward’ and that has been very satisfying.” This spring, Maureen led her students on a research trip to Costa Rica.
Maureen describes her experience at Brockport as “personal.” She remembers how her professors took time to actually get to know her and regularly proved they were masters in their fields. “I loved feeling like I was on the leading edge knowledge. I remember so many classes that went beyond the textbook to current research and journal articles.”
When asked what advice she would give, Maureen considers her own path. “Find your passion and follow it,” she says. “Don’t turn down opportunities that add to your life experience.”