D’Jeane Peters (EMP ’14)
“I always felt like I 'fit in' in academia,” said D’Jeane Peters. “I loved reading and writing papers as an undergrad. As a junior, I discovered that Rocky Mountain College offered the chance to pursue academic research outside my coursework. I was thrilled to learn that I could get paid to do what I love.”
Currently a graduate student and research assistant at Boise State University, D’Jeane credits her success to the unique opportunities and dedicated faculty she experienced as an undergraduate student in RMC’s Geography program (formerly Environmental Management & Policy).
D’Jeane secured funding for her research through the Yellowstone River Research Center (YRRC), a multidisciplinary research institute composed of geologists, ecologists, wildlife biologists, geographers, and social scientists at Rocky. That funding included a stipend, on-campus housing for the summer, and, eventually, even the fee to publish her research, which D’Jeane characterized as, “a huge show of support for undergraduate research.”
She focused her research on a hot topic that remains controversial today; the management of greater sage grouse in the west. With the help and backing of her faculty advisor and co-author, Luke Ward, Ph.D., she published the results of her research in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Journal under the title, “Greater sage-grouse in Montana: Mapping archetype viewpoints across stakeholder groups using Q methodology.”
D’Jeane’s project involved connecting with local stakeholders, discussing their opinions on the conservation of sage grouse in Montana, and then analyzing that data to find areas for consensus.
“Getting published in a peer-reviewed journal was something beyond what is expected of any undergraduate,” said D’Jeane. “It’s a massive time commitment to mentor an inexperienced researcher through that process, but Luke was always there to help, even a full two years after I had graduated from Rocky.”
D’Jeane’s experience of conducting research and publishing her results as an undergraduate is not at all unusual at Rocky. In 2014, RMC student Renee Seacor (ES ’15) co-authored the research article, “Distribution and Abundance of Baling Twine in the Landscape Near Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) Nests: Implications for Nestling Entanglement,” which was published in the peer-reviewed Canadian Field-Naturalist. Another environmental program graduate, Simone Durney (ES ’14), co-authored A Botanical Guide to Special Places in the Pryor Mountains.
The connections D’Jeane made through the project opened doors for her, leading to job and internship offers. Ultimately, she decided to continue her academic career. Her research helped her land the graduate assistantship at Boise State University in their Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning Program (OWPL). The assistantship includes tuition remission and a stipend, essentially paying for her graduate degree.
The wealth of experience D’Jeane had at Rocky set her apart in the program at BSU. Few of her peers had any experience with high-level academic writing, reviewing academic publications, and evaluating data-collection methods when they entered the graduate program at BSU. D’Jeane had practical experience in all these areas and more.
In two years, she expects to earn a Master of Science degree and hopes to publish additional articles in peer-reviewed publications in collaboration with professors at BSU. After that, she plans to apply to Ph.D. programs.
“I love doing research and want to keep at it as long as someone will pay me,” said D’Jeane, “Or, if the research is interesting, even if they don't.”