‘Jet’ Lewis Builds Busy Life as ESF Sophomore
California resident says diverse ideologies made ESF stand out
Jet'aime "Jet" Lewis is not one to shy away from an opportunity for involvement.
She listed her current activities at ESF: chief communications officer in the Undergraduate Student Association, officer in the pre-vet club, resident adviser (RA) in Centennial Hall, researcher in Dr. Christopher Whipps' wildlife studies lab and assistant in the sustainability office.
"That's it for right now," Lewis said, unassumingly.
Lewis is a sophomore environmental biology major from Murrieta, California, about 80 miles southwest of Los Angeles. She discovered ESF when she received a publication from the school in the mail.
After looking at all of her options, Lewis chose to leave the West Coast behind and attend ESF because she liked the close-knit feel of the campus and there was room for her to grow within the field of biology. She wanted a school that would give her the opportunity to study more than just cats, dogs and hamsters.
Lewis also liked ESF because it was the least expensive school on her list. She was the recipient of an ESF Presidential Scholarship, which she said helped to relieve some of the financial burden of going to college. It also helps keep her motivated.
"It's made a difference in making sure that I try to be especially on top of my grades since there is a minimum GPA requirement to keep the award," Lewis said.
Upon her arrival on the East Coast, Lewis found that adjusting to life in Central New York took some time.
"I asked people how often they went to the beach, because I just didn't even think about the proximity of Syracuse to the rest of New York," she said. "People were like, 'What are you talking about?'"
While sitting in a General Biology II lecture her freshman year, Lewis learned her professor, Dr. Whipps, did research in a genetics lab. It sparked her interest so she approached him and was able to do an apprenticeship in his lab during the end of her freshman year and is doing research during her sophomore year.
She is working on a project that tracks how pathogens transfer from biofilms and micro-bacteria to organisms, and how fish are affected. She said the research is opening her eyes up to more possibilities. Lewis had planned on attending veterinarian school but, because of the research she is doing, she is leaning toward getting her Ph.D. instead.
Lewis decided to become an RA because she had a great relationship with her RA during her freshman year. Through the job, she wanted to help further her connections at ESF and grow as a person, she said.
She said RAs are often instrumental in building a welcoming atmosphere in the residence hall, but the job has its challenges.
"Being an RA is hard because your residents will just knock on your door and then you think, 'OK well I have to deal with this now,'" Lewis said.
She also works in the sustainability office, helping with various projects. In the past, she's worked on a non-smoking policy for ESF, recycling projects, bicycle safety and getting the campus-wide sustainability committee together.
Lewis balanced activities with academics in high school but said she found it to be more difficult with a college workload.
"Because I do so much, it forces me to block out what I'm going to do when and keep myself accountable for a lot of things," she said. "I make deadlines for everything."
Lewis hopes her activities will culminate in a career in wildlife rehabilitation, working with endangered species. She is interested in working for nonprofits such as the World Wildlife Fund or National Geographic, and focuses on networking with ESF professors to connect her with people who work in the field.
"The professors and the faculty that are here are some of the best resources that I have and I go to them more than my friends sometimes," she said. "They have so much knowledge - they're just a vault of information and possibility."
Lewis said the diversity in ideology that ESF offers also contributes to her success.
"I love that we all think the same, but we don't," she said. "We are all here because we're super passionate about the environment or environment-related things, but everybody here that I talk to brings a new perspective."
-By Taylor Watson, SU '19
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