Alumni Profile - Mandi Warner
Mandi Warner

Within six months of graduation, 93% of Coker students report working full-time or attending graduate school.

For Mandi Warner, a 2011 Coker graduate, the research experience she gained at Coker more than prepared her for the pressures of being a Ph.D. student in plant pathology at Southern Illinois University.

“I got interested in biology with the first class I took with [Associate Professor of Biology and Director of Undergraduate Research] Joe Flaherty, and I started working in his lab my sophomore year,” she says. “That’s the first time in my life I did research.

“I had never even considered research to be an option, especially plant research, until I started working in the lab at Coker. Having a good advisor and a good support system while at Coker is what made me change my mind.”

Along with helping her discover her passion, Mandi says the chance to participate in student research as an undergrad—directly alongside her professors—was invaluable for her career. “Having the basics coming into grad school was really important,” she says. “I came in with more knowledge about plant pathology than some of the grads who didn’t get that opportunity.”

But the knowledge itself wasn’t all she gained at Coker. Even more importantly, that one-on-one lab experience gave Mandi the self-confidence to approach graduate-level research with faith in her ability to succeed.

“As a PhD student, I’m expected to do a lot of things on my own. Having one-on-one attention and research experience as an undergrad was beneficial, because now I'm more comfortable to work by myself,” she says. “Coker gave me confidence.”

After earning her Ph.D., Mandi has plans to pursue a career in research—a dream she never would have even knew she had without the opportunity to study plant pathology at Coker.

“That was probably my favorite thing about Coker—the fact that you were a name and not a number,” she says. “I loved every minute that I spent there.”



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