Northland College senior Mikaela Fischer is a quiet, self-possessed student with a strong voice. She’s one of those rare students who takes in information, digests it, devises a plan, and executes it.

“She’s mature and still knows how to be playful. I would want her in any class I teach,” said Jason Terry, associate professor of art.

Fischer majors in biology and minors in art. She works two jobs—at a bakery and as a social media assistant in the Office of Marketing Communication at Northland College. And she is the captain of the women’s cross country team.

“Mikaela takes it seriously,” said her coach, Peter Macky. “She’s always there to be a friend, supporter, and mentor to her teammates.”

Mikaela can’t pinpoint how or why she fell in love with biology. “I’ve always been an outdoorsy kid—camping and hiking,” she said.

Plus, her mom is a nurse. “Biology doesn’t gross me out,” she laughed.

Mikaela discovered Northland College by chance during a drive north from her hometown of Boyceville, Wisconsin, near Eau Claire. She was on her way to tour a college in Michigan but saw a sign for Northland College, a small liberal arts college near the shore of Lake Superior. She asked her mom to stop and they toured campus. She was hooked on the place and the location.

She expected to study biology; she didn’t expect to study art. But she received a smaller grant requiring she take art classes. She registered for black and white photography and learned to print film in a dark room. “I’m not a people photographer but I love nature and animals—and the chemistry of printing was an added benefit.”

Northland College student photo collection

That photography class led her to an internship that further cemented her love for biology and her affinity for the arts. She interned as a photographer at the Minnesota Zoo in the summer of 2015.

She submitted internship photos to a Northland College Instagram campaign asking students about their summer experiences and caught the eye of Julie Buckles, director of communications.

“She had a fun, spirited voice, she took great photographs, and I looked at her Instagram account and could see she had a level of professionalism, even about her own life,” Buckles said.

Mikaela was hired as a social media assistant in September 2015. As social media assistant, she photographs, creates campaigns on Instagram, posts to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, designs prizes for her campaigns, and dabbles in videography. Her biggest project so far: she initiated, planned, directed, edited, and posted a “welcome back to campus” video starring College President Michael Miller.

Her video stands as one of the most successful posts in Northland College social media history.

“Mikaela is the full package—creative, detailed, organized, smart, and reliable” Buckles said. “She has a vision and the confidence to see it through.”

Mikaela says that even though social media is supposed to be second nature to millennials, she had a lot to learn. “I’ve gotten even more organized, better at planning and staying on track,” she said. “I’ve learned about communication and the types of posts to reach a certain audience and I’ve gotten more creative with my writing.”

Her senior capstone project—a requirement of graduation—is quintessential science meets art. She’s cultivating bacteria, isolating the different colors, and then painting them on agar. She will then take those plates and take photographs of them.

After graduation, she’s not so sure. “I love bacteria. If I go to grad school it will be for microbiology,” she said. “Maybe I’ll go back and work at the zoo—whatever I do will incorporate biology.”


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