If aging deer, participating in the Mark Twain National Forest research project, or volunteering with wildlife professionals at Squaw Creek sound compelling, than you might want to think about switching your major.
These, and more, are exactly the kind of projects students and faculty of the Wildlife and Biology departments on campus will be found participating in and encouraging others to get involved in as well.
Dr. Mark Mills, professor in the department of biology, explains that what sets the wildlife majors at MWSU apart from any other school is the amount of volunteerism they do.
“They’re out doing deer aging; they’re doing volunteer work up at Squaw Creek in terms of habitat restoration. They’re doing all of this stuff that’s outside of the classroom,” Mills said.
In fact, the amounts of volunteer work and hours the students have collected have helped the chapter to earn major local, state and international awards.
“They’ve won chapter of the year multiple times. They’ve won international student chapter of the year multiple times,” Mills said. “And part of it is that they’re so active, and a big part of these awards is when you apply for them, you have to put in the number of volunteer hours your chapter does.”
Mills also explains that schools like Mizzou have not yet won any international awards for their wildlife chapters, which is why more students should consider Missouri Western when looking into a wildlife conservation major.
“I think if I were a student looking for a school to go to, to major in wildlife conservation, to be honest, the school in the state they should apply to is this one. Not just because they won an award, it’s for the reasons they won the award,” Mills said.
Students currently involved in the wildlife conservation major on campus, like Brock Couch, a senior and dual major in biology and wildlife conservation, says the research, volunteering and professionalism of the faculty is what sets this school apart from others.
“I think it’s really the teachers that do it because, I mean, we can say it’s research, we can say it’s that, but without the teachers we don’t have the research, and the teachers are kind of all in on us because we don’t have a graduate program,” Couch said.
Students in the major are involved in many projects and opportunities on and off-campus, getting a hands-on education in their field of work.
“I’ve worked on a Mark Twain National Forest project for four years now with Dr. Mills, I’ve also helped with Massasauga Rattlesnake Project, and several other small workshops with deer aging and that kind of stuff,” Couch said.
Along with the volunteering and research, students also get opportunities to present at national conferences and intern at professional environmental companies like Squaw Creek.
Jordan Meyers, a senior and wildlife conservation major, says a lot of the success and volunteerism comes from the student organization on campus, the Wildlife Society.
“The big thing that we have opposed to others is we have a highly involved student chapter with the Wildlife Society, which is a student organization that’s sponsored by a professional one geared towards developing professionals and better fields and careers for professionals as well,” Meyers said.
Meyers also explained the goal of the student chapter is to seek out opportunities and work beyond the classroom to get the students involved and learning how to actually work in this area of study.
“So not only do we have highly involved professors, which a lot of universities do, but the big thing that we have is a student chapter that seeks out activities outside of the classroom, so that way, in the end, we are more highly structured,” Meyers said.
Dr, Mills explains that because the wildlife and biology majors and departments at MWSU are so hands-on in learning and educating, the school has the upper edge compared to other schools in the area.
“I think we are a well-kept secret up here in Northwest Missouri, and I think that that message needs to get out more across the state to a lot more high school students,” Mills said.
There are many ways to be involved in the wildlife society and departments at Missouri Western, and even more ways to get each student the hands-on learning experience and volunteer work that the department is known for.