Ivy Burns describes herself as an outdoorsy person who has always been fascinated with the natural world. “I was that kid who would run around with a microscope looking at leaves, playing with spiders, always interested in the way things worked,” she said.
Her enthusiasm for the natural world became focused primarily on plants during her undergraduate education, but not the plants you might expect. Ivy spent two years studying several species of marine plants—seaweed—to learn how they grow and contribute to local algae blooms. “I loved learning about the complex ecology of these things that you would normally just walk right over,” she said. “It opened my eyes to this whole other facet of the natural world that most people ignore.”
It was her extra-curricular involvement, however, that allowed Ivy to blossom. As a freshman, she became president of the student organization Secular URI, a discussion group she helped found for non-religious students. And in her junior and senior years she was the first president of Students for the Advancement of Gender Equity, which provides a safe place for students to talk about gender-related issues.
Her favorite URI moments occurred as part of her involvement with the PLEASE (Peers Learning Educating and Supporting Everyone) program, an education and advocacy group on issues related to stalking, sexual assault, and dating violence.
“That’s when I really found myself at URI,” Ivy said. “Before, I was just taking classes and trying to earn a degree. But then I really found an amazing community of very passionate people who are just so open and ready to help. I learned so much about myself, and it helped define who I am as a person.”