Stefanie is a Marine Biology major at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, with a primary underwater interest in ichthyology. She's certified as a PADI Divemaster and started diving in 1997.
Among a large number of academic honors, extra-curricular activities, and experiences, Stefanie is no stranger to foreign travel, having spent several weeks in various European countries and Caribbean islands, and in Bermuda.
In her application materials, she writes of jumping off a YMCA diving board at the tender age of 11 months, and being inseparable from the water ever since. It was at the YMCA that she got her first taste of scuba, and even though her first open water dive was in 42-degree water with less than a foot visibility while wearing an ill-fitting wetsuit, she was hooked. As a junior in high school, she traveled to Bermuda to participate in a fish identification project with R.E.E.F., which instilled in her a desire to contribute to the ocean sciences.
Stefanie decided to attend UNC, Wilmington due to its reputation for marine biology studies, and will soon be graduating with a B.S. in Marine Sciences. During her time at UNC, she worked as a dive store assistant in order to take advantage of diving opportunities through the shop, not missing a chance to dive no matter what the conditions were.
She joined the UNCW Sailing Club and joined the club on sailing trips to the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. She was then selected to participate in the Odyssey Expeditions Divemaster program, spending three weeks in the British Virgin Islands training to become a divemaster while teaching others to dive.
Most recently, she participated in the UNCW/NURC Research Diver Class, receiving all the certifications the class had to offer and subsequently aiding a UNCW professor with his research diving needs.
Stefanie wants nothing more than to spend as much time working with the marine environment as possible, "even if [she is] merely scraping the growth off the sides of aquaria." She wishes that her work would allow for others to better understand the underwater world and inspire them to take better care of it. To this end, she intends to pursue a doctorate degree, and the experiences garnered from being the 2002 North American Rolex Scholar will undoubtedly go far in pointing her in that direction.
Stefanie is ready for all the experiences she is about to encounter, but it is the chance to spend quite a bit of time underwater that has her excited. As she wrote in her OWUSS application, "Spending time underwater makes me happier than anything else shy of new shoes."