“It’s been really cool figuring out what I do and I don’t like,” said Natalie Luthy, who will cross the commencement stage this year with an associate of science degree in Environmental Science. Yet, her journey to commencement may not have begun at TMCC had it not been for her high school instructor who told her about the Nevada Promise Scholarship.
“I was in a class called JAG [jobs for American graduates], and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to go to Oregon or straight to university when my teacher mentioned the Nevada Promise Scholarship, and I realized I could go to a community college for little to no money,” she said. Luthy also chose TMCC for its small class sizes, which contributed to her success.
“Being in these smaller classes really made me feel more outgoing and personable with my classmates. I also got to know my professors—and connections with professors are great to have,” she said. In fact, those relationships led her to her favorite moment at TMCC, which happened in her first semester after taking Biology 190.
“I’ve never been a big fan of biology but this class made me think otherwise. I did really well on the classwork and tests, but after the semester ended, the professor asked me if I could be a peer tutor for his class the next semester,” Luthy said. A similar scenario played out after taking General Chemistry (Chemistry 121.) “I was never very good at chemistry in high school, but after three weeks in Olga Katkova’s class, I realized I liked chemistry. And [after the semester ended], she offered me a position in the Tutoring and Learning Center for chemistry, but I couldn’t do that because of the pandemic.” In both instances, Luthy realized she was on the right path because she was taking classes that interested her, and she was succeeding.
“Finding out that I’m doing what I should be doing—that was amazing,” she said.
Although Luthy had plenty of ideas about what college would be like, she admitted she wasn’t expecting to have much support from her professors. “My professors—especially my science professors—were awesome,” she said. “Coming into college, I didn’t think professors would have my best interest at heart, but coming to TMCC totally changed my perspective on that entirely. Every single one of my professors wanted me to succeed.”
Environmental Science Professor Sameer Bhattarai would encourage Luthy to complete an internship with the Desert Research Institute focused on snow. “I honestly didn’t know what I was expecting when I went into [the internship.] But, it was so much fun,” she said.
Luthy, along with five other interns, created a PowerPoint presentation that explained the many aspects about snow, everything from the process of snowflake formation to the scientists throughout history who have studied it. She was also tasked with creating another presentation based on her own areas of interests. For that presentation, Luthy chose atmospheric rivers and jet streams.
“I was able to use the information I learned at TMCC for that particular presentation,” she said. “I got to present that one to classes of sixth-graders in Elko. And with that, I learned that I really like presenting information on research that I’ve done. These internships really help you focus on what you may or may not want to do professionally.”
In addition to encouraging her to complete the internship, Luthy said that Bhattarai was integral to her success in the Environmental Science program. “He made classes extremely enjoyable, and encouraged me to do the internship and to get my foot into the science world,” she said.
Although Luthy’s journey to commencement intersected with a worldwide pandemic, she nonetheless calls her graduate story “consistency.”
“It might seem counterintuitive since the past two years have been anything but consistent, but I’ve really found it’s more of a mindset. Without having consistency in mind, I don’t think I would have done what I did here at TMCC,” she said.
And yet, consistency also found its way into her daily routine; in addition to finding her passion for science, another highlight of her two years at TMCC was finding her favorite spot on the Dandini Campus to study where it was quiet and set apart, but not too quiet. “I really enjoyed the times either before class or in the mornings when I came to campus to do my homework. It felt like I was in a good environment where I could accomplish things.”
To students in the middle of their educational journeys, Luthy advises: make the most out your time at TMCC. “Time goes by so fast. It’s your first day and then the next thing you know, you’re done with your degree,” she said. Making sure to stay on top of her assignments in each class was critical to her success. Beyond that, though, she advises other students to use the time you have to get to know your classmates and professors.
My Grad Story Series
In this series of stories, we celebrate students who are achieving their degrees and dreams despite the challenges offered by the ongoing pandemic. Starting the week of April 12, the college will share one story each week up until commencement from its inspiring classes of 2020 and 2021.
This series also includes a video interview with participants on our YouTube Channel. Join us in celebrating these incredible stories and graduates as we count down the weeks to our drive-through commencement ceremony that is happening May 17-21.