KU WOMEN DISTINCTION
Terri J. Hildebrand
Doctoral Student, Botany (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)
Other Achievements or Honors
1. My most noteworthy achievement is exemplified in my role as a non-traditional woman student. Although there were numerous benefits associated with an early development in a small prairie community, encouragement to pursue innovative goals was not one of them. The un-conventional aspiration to scientific research by a woman received little support in these rural surroundings, regardless of any inherent curiosities and exploratory nature. Achievements leading to my studies and research at the University of Kansas have spanned several decades. Extending beyond while holding dear the traditional values of my childhood, I am now immersed in the scientific pursuits I strove to achieve. Whereas the ultimate goal is a professorship in the near future, the accomplishment has been in the journey!
2. Equally notable are my achievements of a fulfilling marriage of nearly thirty years and raising three children to adulthood. My professional successes are closely tied to these nourishing interactions. In addition, these personal commitments have enhanced my skills in understanding, negotiation, compromise and patience, all of which increase my proficiency in the professional arena as well.
3. Prior to a return to academic pursuits, I established a successful consulting business focused on environmental inventories and assessments. As a consultant, I achieved a reputation for providing thorough and precise information. Conservation and land management actions were implemented in the public and private sectors founded on my presentations. Future generations will be impacted by this ecological work suggesting its significance in the fields of community service as well as science.
What led you to your area of study/field of interest?
I have always been interested in plants and the environment. The beauty and intensity of the natural world provide a much deeper sense of wonder in me than human accomplishment. As intricate components of natural communities, I wanted to learn about plants from every aspect.
Even when not immersed in formal academic training, I explored the world of plants. During the early years raising my family, we hiked prairie and forest, collecting and pressing plants for further identification. Upon my return to academia, there was never a doubt what would become my area of study.
The focus of my current research is on a group of plants often referred to as ‘club-mosses’ although they are not even a moss! My Ph.D. research explores this plant family from a variety of aspects including their evolutionary history and ecology. As with all things in science, the more I have learned about them, the more questions arise, thereby suggesting an ongoing research interest.
Who has been influential or had a significant impact on your life?
Professionally, the persons that have had a significant impact on my life are two undergraduate biology professors, Mark and Audrey Gabel. Mark spurred my botanical interests, but, more importantly, he gave me the confidence to pursue graduate training. His comments were always positive, but it was his belief in me that challenged me to be more than I had previously thought possible. Audrey was an inspiration as a professional woman academic in my life. She was my first exposure to a woman scientist and became my role model.
Personally, the person most impacting my life is my biggest fan, my husband David. Providing a cheering section that exceeds a Jay Hawk basketball game, he has never wavered in his support of my goals. When the demands of research, teaching or family are heaviest, he is boosting me with his words and actions of encouragement. There is no other person with whom I would share this adventure!
Why do you believe it is important to recognize women for their accomplishments?
It is important to recognize anyone, man or woman, when they achieve a goal. However, as a woman remembering the feminist issues of decades past, I marvel at the gender inequality that remains in our society. For this reason, it is particularly important for women to be recognized for their accomplishments. Despite the best efforts of many, the recognition of women based solely on their physical attributes continues in nearly every aspect of current society. The effects of these shallow portrayals on current and future generations of both genders decreases the likelihood that we will achieve a community in which all persons are a vision of their talents and potential and not their physical characteristics.
What is your definition of success?
In general, success for me is the accomplishment of goals that I create and continuously re-define. Many of these ambitions are intellectual, most are inter-personal, several are professional, and nearly none are financial.
The Emily Taylor