Gulf Park Senior Credits Coast for New Career Path


05/13/2024 – 08:56am | By: Gabriela Shinskie

Gulf of Mexico beaches and golden sunsets form the stunning backdrop of The University
of Southern Mississippi (USM) Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach, Miss., where for decades
its multiple research opportunities have chartered successful careers for aspiring

Last Saturday’s graduation marked the beginning of a new chapter for USM senior Morgan
Summers. Her plan to pursue a career in marketing led to a degree in marine biology
after she discovered the beauty of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Morgan Summers, a native of Woodstock, Ga. received a bachelor’s degree in marketing
at Georgia Southern University in 2008. She decided she wanted a change of scenery
and headed down to New Orleans, La., where she lived and worked, while also frequently
visiting Bay Saint Louis, Miss., on the weekends for a quick getaway. Her coastal
visits steered her toward an interest in marine life.

“I love being on the water and coastal life,” said Summers.

In 2020, she took a leap of faith and moved to Bay Saint Louis. The COVID-19 pandemic
allowed her time to consider her future. After mulling her options, USM Gulf Park
and its marine science curriculum rose to the top of her choices.

“I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to be in marine biology,” Summers said.
“I love the student-teacher ratio at the Gulf Park campus and having the opportunity
to engage and participate with classmates and the professor.”

After experiencing a large college atmosphere at Georgia Southern, Summers embraced
the smaller, more intimate campus life at Gulf Park, where she connected with professors
Dr. Jennifer Walker and Dr. Taylor Burnett.

Summers dove into her studies and enrolled as a teaching assistant with Dr. Burnett
in chemistry. “I really enjoy teaching and gaining valuable hands-on lab experience,”
Summers said. “It’s been a lot of fun and challenging, and I’m learning every day.” 

“Morgan has gone above and beyond as a teaching assistant for the general chemistry
labs,” Dr. Burnett said. “Her impressive work ethic and natural curiosity have driven
her to provide meaningful lab experiences for her students. She’s a pleasure to work
with, and I’m excited to see what she does next.”

Summers’ fondest memories while in Long Beach are embarking on Dr. Walker’s EPA student
research cruise on the R/V Point Sur. The cruise provided her with valuable insights about life onboard and hands-on research
in the open ocean.

“I learned so many skills on that cruise that I know will be very useful going into
the marine biology field,” said Summers.

Throughout her time at USM, Summers realized it’s never too late to explore a career
path that sparks joy and drives passion. She plans to pursue careers in an aquarium
setting and research, and hopes her goals allow her to travel to destinations tailored
for marine life study.

“I’ve had the pleasure of teaching Morgan in three courses,” said Dr. Walker. “I’ve
enjoyed her inquisitive nature and am sure she will be successful in whatever career
she chooses to pursue.”


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