Front Range Community College Blog

FRCC Student Graduates Summa Cum Laude from CU

Cerrise Weiblen

A broad educational experience at Front Range Community College prepared Cerrise Weiblen for a successful transition to the University of Colorado-Boulder.

How successful? How about 3.978 GPA-graduating-summa-cum-laude successful with a bachelor’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology? That’s successful.

A few turns in her path

Like many community college students, Cerrise’s path to a bachelor’s degree wasn’t direct, but once she launched, it was full speed ahead.

She started at the Larimer Campus, taking one class at a time, with an interest in entrepreneurship and the business world. Retired Larimer County Judge Ronald Schultz’s class in the Legal Environment of Business was a highlight.

Her husband was transferred to California, so she stopped out. Upon their return to Colorado, and after re-establishing residency to take advantage of lower tuition, Cerrise re-enrolled at the Westminster Campus, finishing an Associate of Arts degree in 2013.

“I took advantage of every online and independent study I could,” she says, “including coming back to FRCC while I was at CU to take Calculus 1 and 2.” In doing so, she saved commuting time and money.

Honors track at University of Colorado

As she was making the transition to CU, she noticed something else about her FRCC experience.

“There was this designation on my diploma that I graduated cum laude,” she says, “so when I got to CU and saw there was an honors program, I thought why not.”

Full speed ahead

Cerrise, as a non-traditional student, wasn’t the usual honors program student, but she was undaunted and proceeded full speed ahead, taking full loads. And her academic interest had changed. She had a background in zoology from her time working at the Nashville Zoo at Grasmere in Tennessee. And at CU, Janthinobacterium lividum became the focus of her honors thesis. This is a bacterium that lives in soil and on the skin of some amphibians.

“They let me go nuts,” she says of her professors. She prepared six sets of genomes – the DNA string – of the bacterium and compared those to seven genomes she could download from a database. This particular genome has between 4 million and 6 million pairs of DNA molecules (think double helix). And this didn’t take some supercomputer to track. Her laptop had a pretty standard 8 gigs of RAM.

Journal publication possible

She defended her honors thesis, and she is taking it a step further. She continues to work with her professor and some Ph.D. students to prepare her thesis for possible publication in a scientific journal.

Her CU experience also included independent study for amphibian rescue in Panama under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution.

As she completes her honors thesis for publication review, she is exploring online master’s programs. She sees data science continuing to be her future. That’s the beauty of genomic studies – the data is published online, and it’s there for analysis.

Grateful for FRCC

Cerrise was so grateful for how FRCC prepared her for her transfer to CU that she sent a graduation announcement to FRCC President Andy Dorsey.

“I can’t stress enough how important FRCC was to finish,” she says. “I never would have gotten to CU-Boulder without FRCC. It never would have happened.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Feeley is director of public relations at Front Range Community College.