A Sewickley Academy lifer Mackenzie Pryor ’14 is currently studying wildlife biology and anthropology at the University of Georgia. When it came to finding her calling, Mackenzie was inspired by experiences with teachers who showed their dedication to science, both at the Academy and UGA. “I have always been interested in science, and I am so grateful for the science teachers I had at SA. Each of them were so passionate about the classes they taught, and that gave me the desire to find an area of science that I was as passionate about as they were with their respective subjects.”
Mackenzie especially admired the passion for science that Mr. Spicer brought into the classroom. “Mr. Spicer’s class was so impactful to me because of how excited he was to teach us about outer space. His passion for stars is how I feel toward primates, so I am so lucky to have him as an example to find something I am passionate about.”
Dr. Kinser, Mackenzie’s biology teacher and advisor at Sewickley Academy, is always interested in her current work at UGA. “Mr. Kinser has always been so encouraging to follow my dreams and do something to make a difference in the world. Even today, he is still interested in the work I am doing, and I think that says a lot about him as a teacher since he continues to care about his students after they have left SA.”
Currently, Mackenzie is interested in conservation and working with primates. “The major is environmentally focused, so we learn a lot about ecology, conservation, animal behavior, and even how to identify hundreds of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and trees. I have become especially interested in the conservation aspect of the major, which I think is incredibly important now more than ever as the health of the Earth has been in decline.” MacKenzie’s anthropology classes have allowed her to learn specifically about primate conservation, which is the type of work she would like to do post-graduation.
Mackenzie’s interest in nonhuman primates has opened an opportunity to work in the UGA Primate Cognition and Behavior Laboratory. “My faculty and graduate mentors in the lab have helped me gain skills in conducting experiments and writing scientifically. The lab has allowed me to be involved with articles that will be published soon, along with giving me the resources to begin a project of my own studying gorillas.” After graduation, Mackenzie plans to attend graduate school to earn a Ph.D. in biology or anthropology, with hopes to do conservation work with orangutans in Indonesia. She is also considering work as a professor to help inspire a love of science in students, as her teachers and professors have done for her.
While Mackenzie chose UGA because she wanted a change from Sewickley, she also admits that her years at the Academy prepared her for higher education. “Sewickley made the transition to college relatively easy. Of course there is more work once you get to college, but I already knew which study methods worked for me and knew how to manage my time in order to get everything done. SA definitely gave me those skills through years of having to balance my time between school, sports, and friends. I just do the same thing in college and it works for me!”
While she loves the experience of a large southern state school with massive school pride, she also reflects that “the real work is a lot bigger than Sewickley.” She encourages Senior School students and parents to allow students to decide what they enjoy, without pressure or expectations. “Be your own person and set your own goals because it is really exciting to have something that is so special to you,” Mackenzie said.
Mackenzie encourages to students take advantage of any new and exciting experiences they come across and to always stay open-minded. “I always knew that I wanted to work with animals, but I realized that primates were my passion after taking primate classes at UGA. Without the diverse classes there, I'm not sure if I would have found my passion so quickly.”