Meredith’s Beta Beta Beta Honor Society hosted Janice Swab, professor emerita of biology and botanist extraordinaire in Kresge Auditorium on March 27. Swab gave an enthusiastic and inspiring lecture titled “Adventures Across All Countries — Stories from a Globetrotting Botanist.” She gave interesting recounts of events that took place during her expedition across all seven continents as she was plant hunting.
Swab grew up in the western part of North Carolina and discovered her passion for travelling as a young child. Her interest in other countries was inspired by the cultures that were exhibited through a variety of her dolls’ clothing. Her first excursion out of the country was to Mexico and occurred while she was working on her doctorate at the University of Texas.
“I knew if I got an education I could do and go wherever I wanted. It allowed me to take charge of my life,” said Swab.
Swab is an advocate for the importance of education and travel. Her goal during the lecture was to start a burning desire in students to go out into the world and travel anywhere they want to go. “I want people to know that they can do anything,” said Swab. “If I can do it, so can they.”
Eloise Grathwohl, professor of English, believes Swab’s vibrant experiences are what makes any moment with her special. “Her example invites us all to charge forth and follow our dreams,” said Grathwohl. “It is inspiring to spend time with someone who lives so fully, and anyone who’s ever heard her talk once is going to go again and bring their friends.”
Her lecture lit a fire in Alex Rouch, ’20. “I find her dedication to traveling and experiencing new things really inspiring. If I can do half as much as she has done, I will consider my life successful.”
Much of Swab’s journey was inspired by the five-year expedition Charles Darwin took to explore the world and the plants it had to offer. Garry Walton, Mary Lynch Johnson Professor of English, enjoyed being immersed in the adventures Swab has had over the years.
“Dr. Swab and her late husband Ed have traveled the world, been everywhere, and seem to have seen everything that our environment has to offer – so the chance to follow along on her re-creation of Darwin’s voyages was almost as good as being there in person,” said Walton.
Swab tried to pick stories out of her many undertakings that would reflect the diversity of plants as well as the different cultures that each country had to offer. “I wanted students to see what plant hunting is like and the cultures accompanying these different places,” said Swab. “I’ve taken multiple trips around the world, so I tried choosing a variety of stories that students would enjoy.”
Rebecca Dowdy, ’19, relished the excitement that each story brought to Swab’s lecture. “I honestly loved her stories. They were like something out of an action-adventure novel,” said Dowdy.
Swab’s lecture brought to light the diversity and beauty of plants and the cultures she visited. She closed with this final thought: “I hope when you all travel again that you notice the plants because they are what makes the world a beautiful place to live in.”