Student Spotlight

Proven Leaders


Allison Purdue
Allison Purdue

Allison Purdue is a sophomore wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major from Marietta, Georgia. Allison loves the passion that everyone in CFR has about their field of study. Allison recounts how the CFR family welcomed her during her first year and made her feel right at home.

Allison chose wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture because she has always been interested in the environment and wildlife. In the future she would like to educate the public, particularly children, on the importance of conservation.



Ashley Williamson
Ashley Williamson

Ashley Williams is a senior forestry major. Her concentration is wildlife management. Forestry was a natural fit for her since both her father and grandfather were foresters. Ashley plans to earn a master's degree in wildlife biology after she graduates from MSU. "I want to improve how we maintain one of our most important natural resources, wildlife.

While there will be many steps in accomplishing this goal, the one that excites me most is the opportunity to involve others in forest and wildlife conservation and to be a part of this great community. I look forward to being able to contribute to its growth in the coming years and share my passion with others," she said. That sense of community is one of the reasons she loves the College of Forest Resources so much. She also appreciates the opportunity to conduct hands-on work in the field. "I get to go beyond the classroom and learn from the environment itself. There aren't many majors that allow that chance," she said.

A defining moment came during the 2016 summer field program. On the third day, individuals were required to pace into a highly brushy area alone. Ashley was nervous but rose to the challenge. "At the starting point, I wondered how I was going to do this. I realized all I could do was to try my hardest and focus. I made it through the first leg of the course relatively well, but I still wasn't sure how I was going to accomplish doing it three more times. I just convinced myself that I had to keep going no matter what. As I made my way through the seemingly endless briers, I pushed myself a little more each time.

Finally, I finished the course. I can honestly say that I've never been more proud of myself or felt more accomplished. I knew that from that point on, nothing would stand in the way of me and my dreams. I know to most people pacing a brushy course is probably not a big deal; however, for me, pacing the course defined my future. To students considering a forestry degree, MSU not only offers an incredible education filled with endless opportunities. It also provides you with a community that you can be proud to be a part of."



Chandler Guy
Chandler Guy

Summit, Mississippi native, Chandler Guy, is a forestry major in the College of Forest Resources. He is pursuing a concentration in wildlife management and a second major in political science. His anticipated graduation date is May 2018.

Guy serves on the Dean's Council for the College of Forest Resources and is a Colonel Kenneth (K.D.) Johnson and Catherine B. Johnson Endowed Scholar. He is also a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves as an infantryman squad leader.

Most recently, Guy was one of 11 MSU students selected for the ninth annual William A. Demmer Scholars Program in Washington, D.C. He said his favorite thing about CFR is the student body. "It is made up of the most passionate, intelligent, and hardest working individuals that I have ever met.

They have driven me to better myself, and I consider each student in the College of Forest Resources family." He said it's a privilege to serve as an ambassador for the college. "I love that it allows prospective students to connect with current students while in search of their calling and that doing so may affirm one's interest of where they want to be and that it is possible to get there."

After graduation, Guy hopes to attend law school, commission as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, or return to Capitol Hill for a job while also beginning a master's degree in policy. "If given the opportunity, I plan to achieve all three," he said.



Dan Gill
Dan Gill

Dan Gill, a senior forestry major with a wildlife management concentration became interested in forestry at a young age.

"People would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I would say a forester, but I had no idea what I was actually getting into. Since beginning the forestry curriculum at MSU, I have only become more excited about my chosen profession," Gill said.

The Summit native said the major opened his eyes to a whole new world. "I spend most of my spare time outdoors, so my favorite part of this major is that I am constantly learning new things about the landscape and the science behind how the ecosystem functions. So now when I'm in the woods, I notice a lot of subtle differences that I missed before I became a forestry major."

He encourages students considering the major to give it their all. "Expect to be challenged every day by your professors, and be ready to take it on. It may seem overwhelming at first, but keep working hard and you will be rewarded," he said. For Gill, a defining moment was born of a challenge that ultimately paid off in dividends.

"I would say the whole Summer Field Program was a challenge for me. We spent the entire time learning and practicing techniques that foresters use on a daily basis. From learning how to cruise timber to trapping nuisance animals and touring sawmills, it only made me more positive that I made the best decision for myself when I chose this major."



Elise Benson
Elise Benson

Elise Benson cheers on the MSU all-girl squad and also receives a scholarship. Elise is a wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major with a pre-vet concentration. She hopes to graduate in May 2020 and continue on in vet school at Mississippi State. The Saltillo, Mississippi native has always dreamed of becoming a veterinarian.

"I have wanted to be a vet for as long as I can remember. I have always loved animals," she said.

She prefers working with wildlife and would like to work at a zoo or in wildlife rehabilitation one day. She has been a cheerleader since middle school. She said that while cheer requires extra time and more commitments, she is happy to do what it takes to make everything work.

"Cheering keeps me on my toes. It motivates me to get up and get going every day and complete all the tasks I need to complete," she said.

Elise came to Mississippi State when a member of her high school cheerleading team made the squad and she's happy she did.

"To see all the fans and have a front row view of all of the action on the field is quite a thrill."



Emma Winterhalter
Emma Winterhalter

Mansfield, Texas native, Emma Winterhalter, is a wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture major in the College of Forest Resources. This CFR ambassador has a wildlife agriculture conservation concentration. She anticipates graduating in May 2019 and hopes to one day become a wildlife biologist and conduct conservation research in some form or fashion.

Winterhalter chose the major because she loves animals and being outdoors. "I could never have a traditional desk job," she said. Her favorite aspect of the major is the connectivity and comradery the major affords. "My favorite part of this major is the personal relationships and connections I have developed with the faculty, staff, and my peers," she said.

She encourages prospective students to expect to work hard. "This will be some of the hardest work you have ever done, but you will get back double whatever effort you put it. It is so rewarding," she said.

Winterhalter knows from experience the dedication required to succeed. "A defining moment at MSU was when I was on my way to making a bad grade in one of my classes during my freshman year. I've never had to work so hard to get a grade up, but I am so proud I pulled it off. That experience made me realize the incredibly high standard all MSU students are held to and how lucky I am to be here," she said.



Erik Johnson
Erik Johnson

Erik Johnson traveled all the way from his hometown of Chicago, Illinois to attend Mississippi State University. The forestry major with a concentration in wildlife management in the College of Forest Resources drew him to the Magnolia State.

"I knew I wanted to do something that involved nature and being outdoors. I researched what programs were strongest in forestry and wildlife management and Mississippi State's program really stood out from the rest," he said.

Erik plays sousaphone in the Marching Band and trombone in the Jazz Band at MSU. The freshman plans to graduate in May 2020. His most memorable game day experience thus far was the Texas A&M game.

"That was the most exciting game I have seen. When the team does so well, the band gets excited and the adrenaline pushes us through and makes the whole experience better for everyone," he said.

Erik relayed that being in the band is an important aspect of character development.

"Being a member of the band is an important part of developing your character because it's really working in a professional environment. You really have to do your best because if you mess up, it's as if the whole band messes up. That discipline and motivation really helps me on the academic side, too. I know I have to do my best," he said.



Frederico França and Tamara Amorim
Frederico França and Tamara Amorim

When Frederico França and Tamara Amorim went to Las Vegas for the International Conference on Timber Bridges in 2013, they came home with more than just professional development. The two graduate students also got married during the trip, and as Lady Luck would have it, they met a key contact from Mississippi State University who was attending the same conference.

Both natives of Brazil, França and Amorim met on their first day of graduate school at Federal University of Espirito Santo in Jeronimo Monteiro, Brazil, where they were enrolled in a master's degree program.

Their common interest in wood products developed into a friendship, and they began dating. They both applied for an internship in Madison, Wisconsin, at the internationally known USDA Forest Products Laboratory. The students naturally jumped at the opportunity to attend a conference in a new and exciting location. They worked to photograph the conference to help offset costs.

The meeting offered more than most conferences can boast – relevant seminars, a host of wedding chapel vendors and a chance meeting with Dr. Dan Seale, MSU Warren S. Thompson Professor of Wood Science and Technology.

The couple actually met Seale while they were all waiting for shuttle bus transportation. They didn't want to tell him they were on their way to get married, but they saw him again that evening in a casino restaurant and invited him to their table. By that time, they were celebrating their new marriage and weren't so shy about recounting the day's accomplishments. Seale laughed and congratulated them, they said, but upon learning of their work in forest products, he began recruiting the newlyweds to their next step – MSU's doctoral program in forest resources with a focus on sustainable bioproducts. Now, Seale is their major professor, and they have completed their first year in the program.

"It was our lucky day when we found Dr. Seale," França said.

Amorim said they both love being in Mississippi.

"We have a great department, and we are working on a very good project for the USDA to evaluate southern pine lumber," she said.

França explained that their work involves adding value to the lumber produced for structural purposes in the southern U.S. While França is more focused on wood industry engineering, Amorim's interests are focused on economic analysis and marketing for the industry. For more on the project, refer to the sidebar.

Both agreed that the friendliness at MSU has made them feel at home. They've also enjoyed meeting people from all around the world. "As Brazilians, we talk a lot. It's part of our culture to talk, and so I think we make friends easily," Amorim said.



Isabella Durham
Isabella Durham

Not every student can say they spent their summer chasing lions. Isabella Durham, wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture junior in the College of Forest Resources, is one student who can.

The Prattville, Alabama native spent May 2016 in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Africa working alongside MSU scientists on the Serengeti Lion Project, assessing lion populations. Durham is an ambassador in the College of Forest Resources. She is majoring in wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture with a wildlife veterinary medicine concentration and English minor.

In addition to her role as ambassador and her study abroad experience, Durham is a roadrunner for the university, has taught wildlife camps, and most recently directed a women's leadership camp. She is also an undergraduate research scholar studying how microorganisms select habitat.

After graduation, Durham hopes to earn a Fulbright scholarship that will hopefully take her back to Africa. She also hopes to attend veterinary school. "My goal in life is to become a conservation vet in a park, such as the Serengeti National Park," she said. In the meantime, Durham remains in Starkville focused on blazing her trail at MSU and caring for two creatures at home: her pet snakes Sherlock and Watson.



Jackson Guenther
Jackson Guenther

Jackson Guenther is an ambassador in the College of Forest Resources. Jackson is a junior in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture. "I chose this major because it offered a pre-veterinary track different from the typical undergraduate degree. I love the outdoors and working with wildlife. This allowed me to study two of my main interests at the same time," Jackson said.

Jackson is currently in the ROTC program at Mississippi State University. He hopes to one day serve as a veterinarian in the U.S. Army. "I look forward to my commission and serving in other countries around the world," Jackson said. His favorite part of the major is that everyone has a common interest in the outdoors. He said the smaller class sizes allow more personal interaction between students and professors.

"If you love the great outdoors, this is the place for you. Get involved in programs outside of the classroom, and to reach out to professors and other students. Making connections and friendships will benefit you greatly throughout your time here," he said.



Katey Slack
Katey Slack

Flowood, Mississippi native, Katey Slack, is an ambassador in the College of Forest Resources. The wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major anticipates graduating in May 2019. Her favorite thing about home is the little taste of life on the water it affords.

"I love living close to the Ross Barnett Reservoir. There are little islands you can kayak to and spend the day in a hammock and escape from the world," she said. When in Starkville, Slack likes to take advantage of the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge when she can. "Whether it's hiking, relaxing in a hammock or just driving through, it's nice to get away from campus and immerse yourself in nature." One thing that might surprise you about Slack?

"I once played a sunflower in a commercial for the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science." Slack hopes to continue on with school after her bachelor's and would like to pursue a master's degree in endangered species work.



Kayla Webster
Kayla Webster

Kayla Webster, sophomore wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major with pre-vet concentration, is from Olive Branch, Mississippi. Her favorite thing about CFR is the community and academics that it represents.

Thus far, her most memorable experience in the college has been the Welcome Back BBQ, because it brings the CFR community together. Webster says she chose this major because of a lifelong passion for wild animals. She's known it was a field she wanted to pursue since age five.

Upon graduation, she hopes to pursue veterinary school and would one day like to work in wildlife rehabilitation at a national park. "Maybe one day I will get the chance to work at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee," she says. Webster comments that MSU has taught her to branch out and that everything she learns connects.

For fun, she likes to draw and paint and play with her dog. Her favorite things about MSU are the campus and how the people make it feel like a big community. "I feel so lucky that MSU has the CFR community and that I get to be a part of it," she says.



Keaton Hamid
Keaton Hamid

Keaton Hamid had never been to a cave until she found an internship that immersed her in the black hills of Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota. "I decided that if I wanted to leave Mississippi and learn more about caves and the animals that live within them, that this would be the internship for me," Keaton said.

She was nervous about being so far from home and doing something way out of her norm, however, the experience has been rewarding. "I have not had one regret so far. I have had the time of my life, met so many great people, learned so much and it has only been a few weeks. I am excited about the rest of the summer and I encourage everyone who has an interest in geology or wildlife to come to the Black Hills and explore this breathtaking place," Keaton said. For the Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture major the experience has been action packed.

"I have been on multiple hikes, climbed a mountain, learned a lot about Native American culture, and have learned a great deal about bats, bison and different plants," she said. Her MSU training has made a big difference on her ability to perform and interact with a wide-range of staff members. "I love this major because there is always something new to learn," she said. Keaton certainly is learning new things in his internship. This photo of her is in the Historic Cave while doing some cave mapping. "It is something that I have never even thought about and all of a sudden, I am actually learning first-hand how to do it and how it all works," she said.



Logan Timmis
Logan Timmis

Logan Timmis is an ambassador in the College of Forest Resources. He is a forestry major. He chose forestry because of his inherent love of the outdoors. "There is nothing better than a walk through the woods so why not pursue an education in it?" he said. His concentration is environmental conservation.

"I hope to inspire appreciation in our natural world and all it has to offer," he commented. His favorite part of the major is that each day offers the opportunity to learn something new. A defining moment came at the end of his freshman year.

"I realized the prerequisites were over. I knew my next semesters would include hours in the lab or woods." Logan challenges prospective students to be different. "Make your own path and choose your own future. Maybe it will lead you into the woods like me."



Makayla Brister
Makayla Brister

Junior Makayla Brister always enjoyed everything nature has to offer, particularly wildlife. That's why majoring in wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture was a natural fit. According to Makayla, "There's something majestic about nature that I absolutely love." Her favorite aspect of the major is the chance to attend classes taught outdoors. "Especially when the weather is great!" she adds.

Makayla also plays in the Famous Maroon Band. She enjoys the indescribable experience of stepping onto Scott Field during game day. For Makayla, college is about the experience. "In this major, there are many opportunities that will prepare you for success in your career."

Makayla is a member of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences. She's traveled and networked with the organization. She said the experience will help further her career. She advises potential students to jump outside of their comfort zones. "Just be willing to put yourself out there and seek chances to get involved." Makayla plans to go to vet school when she graduates.



Matthew Virden
Matthew Virden

Montgomery, Alabama native, Matthew Virden, is an ambassador for the College of Forest Resources. The wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture major anticipates graduating in December 2018. He loves the family atmosphere at Mississippi State and says there is always someone willing to help no matter the task. "At Mississippi State, the faculty and staff care about my future and want me to succeed. New Maroon Camp is also one of the best opportunities offered at Mississippi State and is a great way to get involved in the student body," said Virden, who served this past summer on the camp's executive staff.

The close-knit sense of community the College of Forest Resources affords is another aspect of the university he appreciates. Virden says when he's not in the field or hitting the books for class, you can find him out exploring.

"I like to hang out with friends and drive out to the refuge. I also like to go on road trips to different places around the country and visit famous locations. I enjoy traveling out of the country because I can experience different cultures in many countries," Virden said. Thus far, a recent trip to England has been a highlight. "My family and I spent two weeks visiting small towns in southern and central parts of England a few summers ago. Remote, rural locations are more my speed so I enjoyed that trip very much," he said.

After graduation, Virden hopes to continue on and earn a master's degree in the same department where he's working on his bachelor's. His advice to perspective students? "Don't put too much focus on what other people expect of you when you choose a major. Find something you enjoy and would want to do even if you weren't getting paid. It makes more sense to select a career path you will truly love," he said.



Murry Burgess
Murry Burgess

Murry Burgess has always had a love for animals. That's why she chose the Wildlife, Aquaculture, and Fisheries major in the College of Forest Resources at MSU. "I like MSU's wildlife program because it gives me the knowledge and experience I need to be successful in the future," she said. Murry hopes to change the world through conservation. "I want to restore lands and bring animals back from the brink of extinction so that future generations can enjoy the same wildlife that we do today. Saving species keeps the vital ecosystems in balance, which helps save the world," she said.

Her favorite part of the major is the hands-on experience. "All the information and experience is relevant to potential future jobs. The experiences are also fun and exciting," she explained. Her most defining moment at MSU was being accepted as a CFR ambassador. "I am excited to be able to recruit potential students and share the awesomeness of this field.

I love feeling like I am participating in my community and helping to promote and improve the college," she said. She says CFR is a great place to learn and grow, in academics and as a person in general. "The students in the college are always willing to help out. There is always a staff member who has answers and opportunities for you. The classes offered are well-structured and informative. The professors have the tools every student needs to succeed. Definitely consider this college, because the CFR is a great place to be."



Sam Patrick
Sam Patrick

Sam Patrick is a forestry major in the College of Forest Resources. His concentration is wildlife management. Sam hopes to graduate in May 2020. The Tupelo, Mississippi native has always loved the outdoors.

"I've always been a big outdoors person. I enjoy being outside and wanted to find a career that would let me spend time outdoors," he said.

Sam plays trumpet for the Famous Maroon Band. He started playing the trumpet at age 11 and began playing the piano a few years prior to that. He also plays guitar. He said music informs academics in a big way.

"Being in the band has taught me responsibility: to show up on time and perform. I played in high school and the entire experience was a big lesson in responsibility. You have to set aside time before and after to complete your studies. You have to make the commitment and stick to it," he said.

Sam hopes one day to be a forester or wildlife biologist.



Shaina Lampert
Shaina Lampert

Shaina Lampert is a wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major with a concentration in veterinary medicine. A native of Kiln, Mississippi, she has always loved being outdoors and learning about conservation. Shaina enjoys the classes and learning from people that are out in the field. She chose wildlife pre-vet because she has a passion for helping all types of animals.

Shaina hopes to live and work in Austrialia. "I grew up watching and idolizing Steve Irwin which is a main reason I'm so passionate about wildlife and conservation. I was actually born in Trinidad which is a small Carribean island and lived there until I was 9 then moved to Mississippi."



Thomas Skinner
Thomas Skinner

Thomas Skinner is an ambassador for the College of Forest Resources. He is a forestry major. "I chose this major because I have always been interested in the outdoors and animals. I'm a huge hunter and fisherman and spend most of my time outdoors so I thought it would be a good fit for me," he said.

As a sophomore, Thomas looks forward to more classes focused around his major. "I can start to get into the hands-on work and begin to learn about the trees and environment," he said. Thomas loves the time spent outside of the classroom in the woods. A defining moment at MSU came during a preview day for the forestry department in the student union. "I listened to the students and teachers from the department.

That event inspired me to attend MSU and major in forestry," he said. Thomas encourages potential students to consider all options. "Evaluate where each major may lead you. Pick your major based off what you enjoy," he said.



William Griffin
William Griffin

William Griffin is a forestry major and ambassador for the College of Forest Resources. William chose forestry because it gives him flexibility in his future career. He also is excited about the opportunity to work closely with landowners and other professionals in order to achieve the goals set for a given piece of land. A career in forestry will allow him to work in and for our beautiful forests. According to William, "I can't imagine a better use of my professional life."

When asked about his favorite aspect of the major, William didn't hesitate to acknowledge the people in the College of Forest Resources.

"As much as I have enjoyed the classes, field work, and general knowledge gained about the forestry profession, my favorite part is the people," William said. "The faculty and staff are the cream of the crop, and the material is taught in a way that excites, inspires, and truly makes the learning process enjoyable. You'll also develop camaraderie among your classmates that is not easily replaced."

If you are considering the forestry major at Mississippi State, William has some great advice.

"You have to want it. You have to want to learn, and know you will be challenged by it — both mentally and physically. If you come into college and expect everything to be given to you, or everything to be easy, you will be disappointed. That's not how we learn. We learn by being pushed, challenged, and exposed to new things that might not make sense at first. Stick with it and you will be rewarded," William said.