Madeline Goodwin is a 19-year-old Master’s of Environmental Studies candidate, online STEM teacher, and policy wonk. If things go her way, we’ll be calling her Madame President one day.
So you’re working on your Master’s degree and you’re how old?
Yes, I’m working on my Master’s of Environmental Studies degree; I’m 19. I got my Bachelor’s of Science at 17.
How did you get so far ahead? What was school like in your younger years?
I started college part-time at 13, and went full-time at 15. It wasn’t always easy – my best friend suggested I “stay at my own level” when I started college (I replied, “this is my level”), which was pretty much the end of our friendship. I lived an hour from campus, so I didn’t spend much time there except for during class, which made it easier to ignore my lack of a social life. The schoolwork wasn’t overly difficult for me, and I really enjoyed it, especially in the earlier years when I was more focused on it and less interested in having a social life. I was lucky in that I went to a school where the professors appreciated my enthusiasm for learning, and I got a lot of mentorship. One of my former professors is one of my best friends now!
What were some of the pros and cons of being radically accelerated (skipping ahead more than one grade)?
The social life is still really hard. Most of the socializing is based around drinking, parties, and going to bars, in both college and grad school, so I get left out of that. It’s also frustrating not being able to drive yourself to class! People feel free to be rude and question my right to be there and my ability to keep up, too – teachers and students – although that’s less of an issue in grad school because there’s the assumption that if you’re there, it’s because you deserve to be. The benefits are being able to pursue my interests, change focus and explore other areas with less pressure to graduate and get a job, go at my own pace, and go into the “grown-up” world sooner!
Tell me about your research and how my readers might be able to help you.
I am researching climate science in state science standards for my thesis, with an end goal of categorizing the states based on how well they incorporate climate science concepts. A big part of this is a survey I’m performing of science education professionals, where I ask the participants to choose and rank their top five priorities for climate science education. It would be amazing if your science education readers in the U.S. could take my survey by midnight PST on April 10, 2016. The more data I get, the happier I am! Just click this link to begin.
What’s next for you?
Right now, I’m planning my Fall 2016 GHF Online classes (coming soon!). I’m also applying to be a legislative aide next year, and I want to go into politics long-term. If that doesn’t work out, I love teaching and I’d be happy with being a science teacher, too!
What advice do you have for girls who are taking a nontraditional path?
Be strong. Don’t let other people tell you what’s best for you – that’s for you and your parents to decide. Pursue your dreams and don’t let anyone put you down or walk all over you. Other people will doubt you, but haters gonna hate; it is only when you doubt yourself that you begin to let yourself be pulled down. Stand up for yourself, keep your chin up, and remember you’re awesome!
Editor’s note: Are you a climate change champ in Chicago? Don’t miss the new family-friendly exhibit on the topic at the Notebaert Nature Museum. Learn more at our companion site, STEM Kids Chicago.