SIU zoology major from Success, Ark., pursues dream of working with water animals

For Makayla Ward, conducting marine research is a dream job, and Southern Illinois University Carbondale is helping to provide a ticket to that career.

A native of Success, Arkansas, and 2021 graduate of Corning High School, Ward began her higher education career at Crowley’s Ridge College in Paragould, Arkansas. When it came time find the right place to finish her degree in zoology, she wanted to proceed carefully.

“To be honest, I was looking at a couple different options with schools that offered marine biology, zoology,” Ward said. “But every time I visited SIU, I was pleasantly surprised. The area is amazing, surrounded by nature. And the faculty really care to learn about you. It’s an amazing experience.”

Ward said she decided to pursue zoology because of her dream of working around the water. The degree she is earning at SIU will open other possibilities for pursuing her goals. She also received a Provost’s Scholarship, which covers tuition and mandatory fees for two years.

“SIU is providing amazing opportunities and many of the qualities I was looking for in my major program,” Ward said. “The program I’m in allows for a diverse range of research opportunities. There are multiple research labs to be a part of, and most with paid opportunities as well.”

A staple of SIU’s undergraduate education is providing opportunities to participate in or even conduct research projects. Ward, who is learning to do microscopic analysis along with studying how human populations interact with and affect the ocean its life, said this aspect has been key to her positive experience.

“These research opportunities have allowed me to get hands-on experience in the field I want to be in,” she said.

It’s also providing a glimpse of her future, which includes pursuing a doctorate and a career as a zoologist and scientist.

“The choice for which path is still something I’m learning exactly,” Ward said. “But I know I want to be in charge of my own research someday.”

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