Casting a wide net

Posted on Jun 6, 2018
Mara Duke’s undergraduate experience at UW-Superior opened a world of opportunity

Anglers love to have that one spot where the fish always seem to bite. Whether it’s the smallest creek or the greatest Great Lake, it’s the place they feel most comfortable. But that’s not always a good thing. There can be times when the fish just don’t want to cooperate and they have to seek new areas. As daunting as that may be, the promise of new opportunities and experiences can be strong draw.

Similarly, the same can be applied to life. It’s easy to settle into a comfortable routine and let the fear of the unknown prevent change and perhaps growth. Yet when the urge to break away from the familiar hits, the results can be rewarding.

Hailing from Minneapolis, Mara Duke’s decision to enroll at UW-Superior in part because it represented a huge leap of faith.

“I was very afraid to leave,” she said. “I never wanted to leave. This was far enough for me for a while.”

Duke embraced her time on campus, working in the Admissions Office and serving as co-president of the Black Student Union and a member of Students of Science.

“I liked the close community,” Duke said. “That was my favorite part of being here. Even Superior in general, not just the University. I was able to have a pretty great set of connections immediately when I got here – [in the Admissions Office] and with the Multicultural Center, and then I moved forward with those connections and was able to find kind of a family unit up here.”

As a Biology major, she designed her studies to specialize in marine biology, which allowed Duke to follow her passion and study the ocean. While Lake Superior can seem like an ocean at times, it couldn’t offer what Duke wanted to learn. Signing up for UW-Superior’s Study Abroad program, Duke took an even bigger leap out of her comfort zone and departed for Fiji where she was able to earn credits through her individually designed program.

“Even though I still wanted to study in the ocean, I was nervous to leave and didn’t want to commit,” she said. “I did that and now I haven’t really stopped traveling.”

After graduating in December 2012, Duke continued working with the Admissions Office as a counselor for Northern Wisconsin before choosing to continue her education at the University of the Virgin Islands.

“I have no idea what it’s like to be a tourist in any of those places,” she says with a laugh. “I immediately moved there. It was good. I was in another small school and was able to work hands-on in the ocean pretty much every day. We had a lab right on the water, so someone was always doing a project with something in the water. I was able to help people with their projects or observe other projects, besides my own.”

Duke credits her time at UW-Superior with her ability to communicate her scientific findings to a vast array of people.

“I was giving presentations all the time and I had an advantage because I’d done that since my freshman year for admissions,” she said. “During my master’s program, I would sit with people who were my age and could not give presentations and would get so afraid. I felt like I could talk about almost everything and relate it to people instead of speaking in big terms that people couldn’t understand.”

In May 2017, Duke earned her master’s degree in marine and environmental science and is currently working for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as a fisheries technician in the Superior area.

“I’ve been involved in a ton of field work, participated in three different projects and have been a technician as part of them,” she said. “I like it because I get to fish for these fish and it’s cool to see them in a more advanced way.”

For Duke, returning to Superior brings her experiences of the past several years full circle. While she is currently happy to call the Twin Ports home, it doesn’t mean her traveling days are finished. She hopes to step out of her comfort zone again one day work along the southern Atlantic coast.

“I’m very big on just trying to get to my dream,” she says. “So I make little goals and I’m like ‘alright, I’m going to crush these goals.’ I just want to try all these things before I settle down and even when I’m settled, continue to travel and experience the world.”

 

News Contact: James Biros | 715-394-8260 | jbiros{atuws}
Casting a wide net
Posted on Jun 6, 2018
Mara Duke’s undergraduate experience at UW-Superior opened a world of opportunity
Mara Duke, a 2012 graduate of UW-Superior, is currently working for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as a fisheries technician in the Superior area. She poses with a 49.6-inch, 38-pound female muskellunge collected this spring during sampling. The fish was released.

Mara Duke, a 2012 graduate of UW-Superior, is currently working for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as a fisheries technician in the Superior area. She poses with a 49.6-inch, 38-pound female muskellunge collected this spring during sampling. The fish was released.