A Bay College freshman, Steffanie White is majoring in pre-natural resources. She has been busy balancing her education with her duties as a mother - her son, Killian, is nearly a year old.
Steffanie started taking classes at Bay during the winter 2020 semester. She is from Manistique, where she graduated from high school more than a decade ago.
"I graduated in 2007, so I waited quite a while to go on to college," she said.
According to Steffanie, she decided to pursue a college education after having her son last fall in order to "get an actual career." She chose Bay College due to its proximity to her hometown.
"I'm a single mother, so I'm staying close to home where I would have family support," she said.
When she started studying at Bay, Steffanie focused on liberal arts classes. She chose a more specific major after having a conversation with her cousin, who is also a Bay student.
"I've always been very interested in nature and things like that, so she suggested that I check out the natural science/environmental science programs," Steffanie said.
Steffanie changed her degree halfway through the winter 2020 semester, and she began taking science classes for her new major in the fall 2020 semester. So far, she has been enjoying all her classes and teachers.
For the fall 2020 semester, Steffanie is primarily taking hybrid classes online. At first, she was concerned about this; while she had maintained a 4.0 GPA with eight credits last semester, she had increased her course load to 12 credits for the current semester and is taking more difficult classes.
Fortunately, the shift to online learning has been a positive one for Steffanie.
"With Zoom lectures, it's just the same as being in the classroom, but you get to do it from the convenience of your own home," she said.
This has also made it easier for her to care for Killian.
"It saves me from having to find babysitters and stuff," Steffanie said.
After she earns an associate degree in pre-natural resources at Bay, Steffanie aims to transfer to another institution to get her bachelor's degree in environmental science. She said the only nearby colleges offering degrees in environmental science are Michigan Technological University, Lake Superior State University, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, and Michigan State University.
When she gets her associate degree, Steffanie plans to start doing field research with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and conservation groups. This is similar to the work she aims to do after she gets her bachelor's degree, but the additional education will qualify her to work in higher-paid supervisory positions.
"The more education you have, the higher you are able to be in the chain of things," she said.
Steffanie voiced her appreciation to Bay for allowing her to start the process of building her future while staying in the Upper Peninsula for the time being.
"It is allowing me to get the base of the degree I'm going to need while staying close to home," she said.