Gazebo Gazette

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 graduates.

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.”