MANY MAC STUDENTS say balancing everything is the hardest part of adjusting to college life. Brook LaFloe ’15 (St. Paul) is no exception, and it’s no wonder: the sophomore neuroscience major is a two-sport athlete and a Bonner Scholar who already has science research experience to her credit.

The key to all that juggling, says LaFloe, lies in making a very thorough schedule in which she maps out time for homework, volleyball and basketball practice, and even fun with friends. “There’s so much more going on in college,” says LaFloe, who graduated from St. Paul’s Johnson High School.

Last summer LaFloe landed a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) position at Avila University in Kansas City. Through a family friend, she got connected to a professor in the REU program whose grant included research opportunities for Native American students. He encouraged her to apply.

LaFloe’s research team explored the foraging behaviors of the ameiva lizard, native to the Bahamas—which meant traveling to that Caribbean country for fieldwork. LaFloe, who received a Gates Millennium Scholarship that supports up to 10 years of science-focused education, already knew she was drawn to scientific research as a career. This summer’s experience only confirmed her interest.

Kansas City and the Bahamas were the latest in a string of new travel opportunities La Floe has enjoyed, including a trip to New Orleans with her Bonner peers and to Chicago with the women’s basketball team. “I didn’t think I’d ever leave the country before studying abroad,” says LaFloe, who had planned to return to a job at Dairy Queen before finding out she’d landed the REU position. “This definitely made me want to see the world.”

“This definitely made me want to see the world.”

This fall she’s putting the finishing touches on an academic paper based on her summer research, and is helping with youth programs through her Bonner work-study job at the American Indian magnet school. On campus, LaFloe is full speed into her second season of volleyball, as well as working with another Native American student to organize a campus powwow.

LaFloe’s coaches marvel at her schedule. “Brook did so much in her first year at Mac; I’m amazed at how she juggles it all,” volleyball coach Annie Doman says. “Her role on the team has definitely changed this year, and her improvement will challenge her teammates in practice. Her positive energy makes her the kind of athlete you want on your team.”

October 15 2012

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