Ready, set, action: Erin Hediger demonstrates the power of making a difference

Jordan Parshall

For Erin Hediger, a Biological Sciences major from St. Louis, making a difference is central to her goals and her achievements. Moving to Columbia for college was an opportunity to do just that.

“At first I was unsure if I wanted to go to such a big school, but my opinion really changed as soon as I got to see campus in action,” Hediger recalls.

Hediger has spent much of her spare time throughout college volunteering to help members of the Mizzou and Columbia communities. She has been involved with Mizzou Student United Way and the biology honors fraternity, Beta Beta Beta, among other organizations. With those groups, she has helped out at the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, the Ronald McDonald House, Caring for Columbia, and Room at the Inn, to name a few.

Her efforts were recently recognized and celebrated by MU when she was selected to receive an Unsung Hero Award. This undergraduate honorary award acknowledges selfless acts of initiative and commitment performed by students on the MU campus. Hediger was presented with the award at the Chancellor’s Excellence Awards reception this month.

“I think the biggest thing volunteerism has taught me is that I can always do more to help other people. It’s really humbled me as a person. It’s also shown me that I want to have a career where I can help those who are going through difficult times,” she says.

This latter lesson, she says, she learned firsthand. At the end of her sophomore year, Hediger was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo treatment. Rather than hold her back, Hediger says being a cancer survivor reinforced her desire to make a difference.

“Being a cancer survivor, health wasn’t always on my side. And I’ve come to realize for a lot of people it’s not. I’ve learned that I want to combine my passion for helping others with my passion for genetics and that I want to make a career out of helping others who are sick or could potentially be sick,” she says.

After thriving and enjoying her General Genetics course with Dr. Patrick Shiu, Hediger began tutoring genetics at the Mizzou Learning Center. Later, she learned about genetic counseling from her Biological Career Explorations class, a career option that would allow her to combine both her interest in genetics with her desire to help others.

“I realized that I can use my experiences of being a patient and facing the unknown in terms of treatment and health down the road and using my love for genetics and my ability to express it and help others understand it in a way that can help them,” she says. “Mizzou has introduced me to so many opportunities and different things that I can do with a biology degree, and it has really inspired me to go after those opportunities.”

After completing two bone marrow registry drives and countless other philanthropic endeavors on Mizzou’s campus and around Columbia, Hediger leaves a legacy of what it means to make a difference.

Her advice to incoming students: jump right in!

“Don’t wait to get involved because you might miss out on some opportunities to make a difference in Columbia or on Mizzou’s campus.”

In this video, Erin talks more about her choice to choose genetic counseling as a career.

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