Six questions with the 2020 Florham Pinnacle Award recipient: Alisa Whitmore
Interview by Kenna Caprio
May 11, 2020 — Alisa Whitmore wants to instill confidence in her younger siblings, her Girl Scouts and her future students. She wants to give them as much attention and as much kindness as her own mentors, professors and advisers did. She’ll get a head start as a role model as the Class of 2020 Florham Pinnacle Award recipient.
FDU: In what ways has attending college at FDU transformed your life?
AW: Coming in, I was quiet and didn’t have confidence in my abilities, even though I did well in high school. Professors [Brian] Knorr in physics and [Robert] Mayans in mathematics fostered my confidence and helped me realize my potential.
I joined the Florham Programming Committee (FPC), eventually becoming president. Knowing I made a difference in people’s college experience, giving them fun memories is very special. Now, walking away from the organization, I feel like I’m leaving it in such a good place. They are going to continue to thrive and do amazing things, which is so exciting.
FDU: How and why did you decide on mathematics as a major, physics as a minor, and to join the QUEST program?
AW: I’ve always known that I wanted to be a teacher, partially because of my involvement with Girl Scouts. I fell in love with the feeling of making a difference.
In high school, I had amazing physics and calculus teachers, who made me want to go into STEM. I want to be a female role model in physics. I’ll tell female students, “I did it, and you can, too.” I’m planning to get dual-certified in math and physics so I can teach both. I passed the math Praxis, next up: physics and general science.
FDU: What’s your most rewarding academic moment or memory?
AW: Being inducted into the mathematics honor society last year felt like a culmination of everything. You have to maintain a certain GPA and be recommended by the professors. Celebrating that moment with the math faculty was special.
I also really enjoyed being a physics TA, hopefully making that subject a little easier.
FDU: What do you do to focus, reset and relax?
AW: I tend to be bad at relaxing! But I do tae kwon do to work off energy or go for walks to decompress and remind myself that everything is okay.
FDU: How have you grown and adapted in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic?
AW: I’ve learned how to maintain relationships at a distance, which might not seem like a difficult thing, with technology. But I have friends in other time zones. We schedule time to be social.
Usually, I’m a person who doesn’t do a lot of homework in my bedroom; I prefer working in the Bottle Hill room or the Monninger Center. It’s an adjustment to make my bedroom my workspace, my meeting space and my sleeping space!
FDU: What gives you purpose?
AW: It definitely comes from helping others. I lost my mother when I was young. Teachers and mentors, Girl Scout leaders, and other positive adult influences helped me become the person I am. No matter what, I want to be the person students can come to and trust — whether they fall in love with STEM or not, or just need an adult figure to be there and understand.