Kodie Gerritsen – CHABSS 2021 Outstanding Student – Kodie is bestowed with CHABSS' highest graduating student achievement award.
Additionally and more significantly, they earned the 2021 CSUSM President's Outstanding Graduate award. This award is the university's highest honor bestowed upon a graduating student. It recognizes the student's exemplary contributions to their field and to the university. Honorees are nominated by faculty or staff and endorsed by their college's Dean.
Kodie's leadership and contributions to the university and the greater community represents the best of CHABSS.
What does art, physics, and geography have in common? The answer is Kodie Gerritsen, the College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral & Social Sciences (CHABSS) Dean’s Outstanding Student for 2021. Kodie will graduate in May with a B.A. in Visual and Performing Arts, a B.S. in Physics, and minor in Geography.
Kodie said that they were supposed to be an artist, but partway through earning their art degree they found that their penchant for objective thinking and facts obtained via the scientific method excited them, and so they dove into the deep end of math and science and added Applied Physics as their second major. Then, they discovered their love for geography and added it as a minor. “Kodie has taken to heart the benefits of interdisciplinarity and is combining art and science in ways that have enriched their education experience and helped create a well-rounded learning path,” said CHABSS Interim Dean Dr. Elizabeth Matthews. “Kodie has used this interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary approach to enhance our community in immeasurable ways. I believe that they exemplify the spirit of California State University San Marcos – intellectual curiosity, creativity, dedication, compassion, community-mindedness, and motivation,” Matthews continued.
Kodie said that the geography minor was an unexpected gift that injected more meaning into their learning experience. “Each distinct step I’ve taken throughout my schooling has helped shape me into a more multifaceted person. I was supposed to be an artist, and that is part of who I am. But my experiences at California State University San Marcos have led me to define myself and my academic journey by many measures. My experience in the arts gave me confidence; through physics I discovered my strengths; and in geography I found direction,” they said.
Kodie not only went above and beyond with earning their degrees, but also with their contributions to research, and campus and community involvement throughout their time at CSUSM.
Their interests in the arts, sciences, and social sciences led them to a pursue a research position with art professor Lucy HG Solomon. The research Kodie conducted with professor HG Solomon translated into artistic works incorporating science communication and data visualization. Kodie then presented their research via exhibits and conferences including the Life/Art/Science/Technology Festival at Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research as well as on display in CSUSM’s Kellogg Library. Kodie has also worked with geography professor Dr. Elizabeth Ridder, which has involved preparing a proposal to use motion-sensitive trail cameras to investigate wildlife occurrences within tunnels that connect a local conservation area and undeveloped land separated by a major highway.
Professor HG Solomon, who nominated Kodie for the CHABSS Dean’s Outstanding Student award, said, “Kodie is talented in so many areas. Kodie is an excellent visualizer of complex information and a student of the arts, science, and geography who matches their immense curiosity with focused study. An avid scholar, Kodie has become immersed in academic studies and pushes forward with curiosity and tenacity. This is evident in work across the fields of art and geography, where Kodie works alongside myself and in Dr. Elizabeth Ridder’s laboratory focused on human impacts on the landscape. Because of this fluidity in thinking, Dr. Ridder and I selected Kodie to work with us on the development of a project proposal for a sculptural display of the San Dieguito watershed.”
As a STEAM Ambassador, which designs and delivers curriculum on science and art to K-12 students, Kodie brought craft, sculpture, color theory and the science of rainbows together in an engaging hands-on activity. “For schoolchildren whose art and science lessons have all but disappeared, Kodie was able to inspire young minds and remind them of the possibility of discovery through hands-on learning,” said HG Solomon. Kodie also was a key member of the team that designed the Data Stacks exhibition space for CSUSM’s Kellogg library that features art around issues of sustainability, climate change and climate justice. “Among students, Kodie stands out for their fearlessness when it comes to tackling complex and daunting projects, and I have witnessed first-hand Kodie’s ability to distill complex environmental ideas into fun projects,” said HG Solomon. “Kodie’s ongoing work with my students in the Data and Transdisciplinary Art Lab includes involvement in many projects that examine society’s relationship to their environments. This work is evidence of Kodie’s talent in communicating scientific themes as well as their enthusiasm for interdisciplinary art,” added HG Solomon.
Kodie’s passion for physics led her to volunteer as president of CSUSM’s Women in Physics (WiP) student organization. During a time when stay-at-home orders caused many student organizations to suspend or disband, Kodie and her fellow officers pushed forward with WiP which had experienced setbacks because of the pandemic. “In defiance of the difficulties we have faced this year, we have found ways to remain connected and socially energized – possibly even more so now than ever before,” Kodie said. WiP provided opportunities for members to virtually attend the Women’s Leadership Symposium at CSUSM and the APS Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, as well as led meetings discussing disparities in the field of physics, resources for graduate school applications, email etiquette, and the process of voting and voter registration. In addition to WiP, Kodie has served as the social media manager for the Society of Physics student organization.
Kodie’s academic perseverance and thirst for research led them to apply to and be accepted into CSUSM’s TRIO McNair Scholars Program, a campus program dedicated to help first-generation students to better understand and navigate the process of preparing and applying for graduate school. In addition to Kodie’s participation in the program, they served as the public relations officer. “My academic studies, research experiences, and involvement with the TRIO McNair Student Organization have helped me grow and find new ways to apply concepts in the real world to solve problems – a valuable set of skills that will surely increase my chances for success on my continuing academic journey,” Kodie said.
Kodie has done amazing things combining their love of science and art. “They have participated in major research projects and shared the knowledge with our K-12 partners in impactful ways,” Matthews said. “Kodie has accomplished much in their time at CSUSM and has sought out all we have to offer. And they have paid back to the campus in innumerable ways. I know Kodie will continue to make us proud in their future endeavors.”
Following graduation from CSUSM, Kodie plans to continue her education and has applied to several grad school programs both nationally and internationally to study geography, environmental/science policy, and science communication. They said, “My top program choices are in Europe, and I am excited about the potential to pursue a graduate education abroad, though I am excited about all of the programs I have applied to.” Ultimately, Kodie plans to dedicate their life’s work to science. They explain, “I believe that enacting effective environmental policies while simultaneously emphasizing the need for public scientific literacy will play a vital role in the path toward social and environmental progress in relation to pressing worldwide issues such as the climate crisis. In order to address this, I intend to combine my interests either by working toward a career in geography concerned with informing and facilitating effective environmental policymaking or by carving a bespoke career in science communication. Pursuing a career that would allow me to contribute to either sector – environmental policy and/or science communication – would allow me to follow my passions and apply my educational experiences in productive and meaningful ways.”