Alumna Liz Schubert uses her scientific knowledge and personal experience to help other first-generation students get a head start in science and engineering.
Elizabeth “Liz” Schubert (BS Environmental Science ’19) never thought she would know—or care—so much about soils. But now, this first-generation University of Arizona alumna uses her environmental knowledge in AmeriCorps as a Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA) Stem Coach Coordinator.
"Environmental science opened my eyes to topics—like soils—that I knew nothing about.”
From Weather Forecasting Dreams to Soil Savant
It all started with the weather—Schubert’s family always thought she would be chasing storms or predicting the forecast. To chase this fascination, Schubert worked multiple jobs to support herself through school, including the tool department at Sears and as a pharmacy technician at Fry’s. She started her collegiate career at Pima Community College before transferring to the University of Arizona to complete her education.
However, the meteorology degree she thought about pursuing didn’t exist anymore. So Schubert reconfigured her plans, settling on the more broad environmental science major.
Surprising herself, Schubert got captivated by soil—from soil chemistry and physics, to morphology and arid land management. She was a preceptor for the soils lab, providing instruction support, material organization and mentorship for students.
She even dabbled in hands-on research with Jia Hu, faculty in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, working as an undergraduate research assistant extracting water from soil samples for isotopic analysis.
“Don’t be afraid to get involved outside of your department to expand your horizons.”
Coaching the Next Generation of Scientists
Working as a MESA Stem Coach Coordinator, Schubert’s science education has come full circle.
She coordinates coaches visiting various schools for the outreach program aimed at low-income, minority or first-generation college-bound students—including the middle school she attended (Safford K-8 School).
With her environmental background, Schubert is hoping to bring topics like biology more into the forefront of a program more historically focused more on engineering and math.
Ultimately, after her AmeriCorps term ends in summer 2020, Schubert wants to stay local and look for a job either focused on outreach or environmental fieldwork.