Meet Mari: a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader with a Master of Science in Educational Leadership. Mari led several Project MERCCURI citizen science research activities in Florida including a few with Pop Warner cheerleaders. On December 11, 2013, Mari will join other Science Cheerleaders to make a big announcement at the Pop Warner Little Scholars Cheer and Dance Championship at Disney/ESPN’s Wide World of Sports! Which microbes, collected by Pop Warner teams, will be heading to the International Space Station!? Find out on December 11! [Updated 1/1/14]

Update, January 2014:
Since retiring as a Miami Dolphins Cheerleader this past season, I have been serving as an Ambassador with the organization. An an ambassador among some wonderful former teammates of mine as well as other Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders alumni, we are able to contribute to the game-day experience for guests. I am honored to continue my time with the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders in this role and it only speaks of the traditions of this wonderful organization I consider my family!
As a Senior Academic Advisor and Instructor at my current university, I continue to work with students exploring various majors including STEM majors, Business, and Arts & Sciences and have also began teaching new courses. Entering my 7th year as a course instructor, I began teaching “Discover Your Major” to first-year college students weighing their options for majors and capitalizing on their skills and interests. This Spring, I will also begin teaching a new course “Major and Career Exploration” for more senior students focused on career planning. In addition, I’ve been lucky to be appointed to a council that leads the professional development efforts of my 80+ colleagues in academic advising for our university. This is an exciting opportunity for me as I’m a big believer that everyone has the ability to continue learning throughout their careers and positively mentor others in the process. All the more exciting I will be starting my doctoral work next Fall in Human and Organizational Learning – studying human behavior and their potential and opportunities for performance excellence.

Update, December 2012:
In the past year, I have changed roles at the university where I work. I am now a Senior Academic Advisor in Undergraduate Education and continue teaching courses including First Year Experience, Introduction to Honors, and an Honors Leadership Seminar. Next semester I will also be teaching a new course “Discovering Your Major” guiding students through an exploration of  professions that not only fit them best but honing in on one that challenges them professionally utilizing their skills and interests in Math, Science, Engineering, Business, or various Arts & Sciences.
In my fourth and final season as a Miami Dolphins Cheerleader, I had the honor of serving as a Co-Captain. I helped lead a group of 11 women on our team and could not have asked for a more rewarding experience!

SciCheer: Which came first: your interest in science or cheerleading?
Mari: I would definitely say my interest in science came first because of how academically oriented I was as a child but I had always had an interest in performing so I picked up on cheerleading and dance more passionately in middle school.
SciCheer: Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one
dream (cheerleading, etc) and another (a STEM career)?
Mari: My advice is NOT to choose. Instead, challenge yourself to do it all. How well you are disciplined will make the difference. There’s a lot to be said about someone who is willing to move outside the box and explore a dream like cheerleading or becoming a professional in a STEM career. I embrace my “geek” within but also follow my other passion- I’d love for young people to do the same!
SciCheer: Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Mari: I would advise my 12-year-old self to keep finding the internal motivation to accomplish goals and prove to myself that I know what my abilities are. Positive thinking goes a long way- use it!
SciCheer: What are your plans for the future?
Mari: My future goal is to pursue a Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership within the next three years. I hope to use this degree to teach more classes at the collegiate level, with an emphasis on human behavior.
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