Olivia Calvin: If You Want To Go Farther, Go Together

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When Olivia, an accomplished math major at Coe College, sought otherwise un-offered opportunities to explore the field of geography, she was introduced to Rebecca (Lakeside faculty) and agreed to tag along for summer field work internship in NW Iowa in 2021.


Olivia did not set out to work in laboratories like her peers. She was a naturalist from a different walk: nature was her passion, but numbers were her game. As a mathematician, Olivia unknowingly made the same pilgrimage to Okoboji as many legendary scientists before her. Rebecca’s summer task: research how people recreate in the lakes area. Olivia’s assignment: process Rebecca’s data. As part of her team of two, she put her math skillset and love for nature to the test through data analysis.


“Rebecca said, ‘We are going to publish a paper on this,’ and I thought, ‘Okay….. I’m glad you have that future mindset, but publishing a paper? I chose math because I didn’t want to write papers!’” she laughed. “Eventually, I made a couple posters, we did a literature review, and we dug deep into the recreation study over the summer. Rebecca did a lot of the writing, and I did a lot of the numbers, graphs, data validation. It’s something that you watch grow, and I am super proud of the final product. It is something I am really happy to put my name on.”


As the proverb goes, “If you want to go far, go together.” Olivia not only published a piece of academic research during her brief summer at Lakeside, but she was also greatly valued and sought after for her ability to help organize, interpret, and present data collected by students researching a broad range of topics across campus.


Demand for her skillset helped her hone it, and Olivia walked out of her Lakeside experience as an experienced science data analyst. She added the paper she and Rebecca co-produced to her portfolio, and – hooked as she was – she set her sights on more research opportunities.


“Now, I am really passionate about research, and this research process really is what I find most fulfilling: asking questions, getting data, being able to figure out what that data means and being able to communicate it. It is really something I found a true passion for.”

she shared before smiling and adding,

“I’d like to believe I’m pretty good at it, too, so that helps.”


Lakeside gives students roots and wings by way of nature-based experiential education in Northwest Iowa. Since her time at Lakeside, Olivia got accepted into a master’s program for Geography at the University of Northern Iowa where she plans to redirect her skillset towards research with one more dimension: nature and people. Not only does she step forward with a supportive community of professional peers from her summer at Lakeside, she continues to develop her original relationship with Rebecca, who helped connect Olivia with the program within which she will study in the fall.


Olivia shared that she advocates for Lakeside. Coming from the mathematician in a sea (or, lake) of biologists, “There’s something for everyone.”


By Josie Hoien



“Artists and scientists are both asking questions about the world, they’re just doing it in different ways”
Alex Braidwood
Director, Iowa Lakeside Lab Artists-in-Residence Program
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