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Makayla Palm
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

Makayla Palm

Graduation year: 2024

High school: Peoria Christian High School

Hometown: Groveland, Ill.

Major: Geology

Minor: Creative writing

Activities: Fryxell Geology Museum proctor, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Internships: My first was a science communication internship with TimeScavengers, a blog focused on educating the public on climate issues and fundamental geology topics. I was paid to write content that analyzed peer-reviewed literature and synthesized it for the general public to be able to understand. For my second internship, which was sponsored by Augustana's geology department, I was a field intern for the Burpee Museum of Natural History. I worked with Josh Matthews and his field crew at their active dinosaur quarry in Hanksville, Utah. On my first day, I found a toe bone of my favorite dinosaur, Allosaurus!

Post-grad plans: I will be working as a field geologist for American Environmental Corporation, an environmental consulting company based out of Indianapolis, Ind. I will be working from the regional office in Springfield, Ill., starting shortly after graduation. My duties will be split between report writing and sample collection in the field.

Why Augustana?

I chose Augustana because of the small class sizes and the welcoming and encouraging spirit of the geology department. From my first visit and following correspondence, I felt very comfortable with faculty and staff, and I felt any questions or concerns I had were heard and addressed. Planning is essential, especially for a transfer student, and the geology department was fantastic in working with me even before I was an official Augustana student.

Are you where you thought you'd be when you first came to campus?

I have grown a lot as a person since I stepped foot on campus two years ago. Being at Augustana provided me with many opportunities to learn what I am capable of, what I am passionate about and what really matters to me. I am not where I thought I would be, and I am a much better person for it.

Who helped you get to where you are now?

Dr. Strasser has been essential to my success. He helped me plan my classes to transfer from my community college before I was an official Augustana student. He has continued to be a great advisor throughout my time here. I have enjoyed having him as a professor every semester since I started as a student. He helped make my summer research possible, and I cannot thank him enough for how much he has positively impacted my Augustana experience.

Susan Wolf is also a crucial part of my Augustana experience. Her help with my résumé and interview preparation helped me secure a job in the career path I wanted. She has also been an incredible supervisor in museum and outreach work. I have learned a lot about good science communication from her.

Dr. K [Kelsey Arkle] has been an instrumental advisor for my Senior Inquiry work and because of her guidance, my project has grown to be much bigger and more insightful than I ever expected.

Peak experience?

My peak experience has to be my internship last summer with the Burpee Museum of Natural History. I was able to work in Utah digging up dinosaur bones and be part of the paleontology community. I was able to see and learn so much about Utah geology, and that is a trip I will never forget.

What surprised you?

The continued generosity of the geology department and geology alumni has been such a great help to me and many other students. Their contributions make going on trips like Geology 105 and the Mojave J-term much more affordable, and these field experiences were crucial to building my résumé.

How did you use your Augie Choice?

I used my Augie Choice to make my unpaid internship last summer a paid internship. This allowed me to make a little bit of money and focus on learning during my time in Utah.

What will you miss the most?

I will miss the familiarity of the geology department and the collaborative learning environment I have experienced during my time here. The small class sizes and accountability from professors kept me engaged in my work, and I will miss their encouragement.

Advice for the Class of 2028?

Lean into your strengths. Everyone says to get out of your comfort zone, but there is also value in building on skills and strengths you already have.

"Although Makayla only joined Augustana two years ago, she's made a profound impact on the geology department. A quintessential liberal arts student, she excels in research, writing, public speaking and science education. Utilizing storytelling, she adeptly communicates complex scientific concepts as a writer, museum docent and outreach educator. Her passion for geology and dinosaurs has led to remarkable opportunities, including interning at the Burpee Museum's dinosaur dig site in Utah. Makayla has secured a post-graduation job in geology, promising an exciting future ahead!"

– Dr. Kelsey Arkle, associate professor, geology