As an Iowa State freshman, Sara Ronnkvist thought her future was set – until she realized she didn’t like her chosen major.
She quickly found support from the Honors Program, WiSE Learning Community and her parents to make a new plan. By her sophomore year, she had discovered her true passion: statistics. During an internship at a county environmental services department, she was assigned to create a database to track gas usage and heating degree data.
“It helped the county realize there was a heating problem,” she said. “I built the database they used to justify buying solar panels.”
She changed her major to statistics and added a minor in sociology.
“Iowa State broadened my interdisciplinary viewpoint,” she said. “Before, I believed you had one path. Statistics is everywhere. Any degree uses statistics, especially with the increasing amount of data. While I’m learning about statistics, I also like to learn about its different applications.”
Explore new cultures
Changing her academic path made for an anxious first year, Sara said. She stayed positive by planning new goals, such as researching a study abroad trip.
During a semester abroad in Sweden — the country where her dad was born – she took arts and humanities classes, weekend trips to museums and spent hours drinking Swedish coffee and reading up on her favorite statistics topic – the U.S. Census.
“It was a huge semester of personal growth, “she said. “I was alone for the first time. I had to be self-sufficient and in charge of doing my own thing and paving my own path.”
Make a difference
Sara’s future plans are to study population surveys in graduate school. A Dean’s High Impact Award for Undergraduate Research recipient, she is currently researching farmers’ attitudes toward adaptation and mitigation measures relating to climate change.
“My main goal with my career is to leave a positive impact,” she said. “I know if I continue to study statistics I can really make a difference.”
Sara’s adventure also included: