Student Spotlight: Harper Jackson
The Patriot • September 13, 2021
Lesley Willard, Assistant Editor
After taking advice from the most influential people in his life, 21-year-old environmental science major Robert “Harper” Jackson (Delta Tau–Francis Marion ’19) is working toward earning a degree that will allow him to make his favorite hobby a career.
“When I first came to FMU, I was undecided on a major,” Jackson said. “On the day of freshman orientation, I was trying to think of things I enjoy, and fishing was the only thing that came to mind. I decided that if I was going to work my entire life, I might as well make it fun and turn my passion into something I could make money off of, so I decided to major in biology.”
As a child, Harper’s favorite thing to do was go fishing with his family. Even when they didn’t catch anything, he loved spending quality time with those he could learn from and never took the outdoors for granted.
“It’s just fun to be out there on the water,” Harper said. “I never get discouraged when I don’t catch anything because the best part of the sport is sitting outside enjoying nature.”
While he didn’t particularly like the entry-level biology classes, now that he is in courses geared toward his interest, Harper loves his major – specifically the professors and students he works with daily. One of his favorite things about FMU is the exposure he has to those with similar interests.
Over the summer, Harper had the opportunity to intern with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) through FMU’s Fishery Biologist Internship Program. He was able to work alongside fishery biologists who taught him things such as how to electro fish and how to test for water quality in state lakes and rivers, along with a plethora of other things.
“I got to see how DNR fish management works and what they do on a day-to-day basis,” Harper said. “I learned everything from fish habitat restoration to how to operate a boat and back it onto a trailer. I got to work in the lab where we processed and aged catfish otoliths and weighed and measured fish and tracked it excel. Then I got to see how the data we collected in the field was used, and I was able to travel all around our state doing these things.”
As a student, Jackson wanted to be sure he experienced everything FMU has to offer. Along with making friends within his major, he decided to venture out and join a fraternity, ultimately choosing the Kappa Alpha Order.
“I have a lot of friends who reached out to me and asked me to join,” Jackson said. “I decided to give it a try, and I have absolutely no regrets. I knew several of the brothers already, but it has given me the opportunity to make new friends and get more involved with FMU on campus, which is exactly what I wanted.”
As he inches closer to the end of his FMU career, Harper said he only has two things he wishes were different about the school: a football team and more fishery biology classes.
Jackson said, above everything else, he is excited to graduate and find his dream job.
“There are so many opportunities out there; I’m excited to figure out exactly where I want to work,” Harper said. “I do wish there were more opportunities to get involved with fishery biology here at FMU, but I’m thankful for the professors and opportunities I have found through this school.”
Looking ahead, Harper is ready to strap up and finish out his college career strong. He said he is already in love with his major, and his internship with SCDNR only made him more confident that he made the right choice. He can’t wait to see how much better it will get through the years.
“I get up and go to school every day because I love what I do,” Harper said. “I love doing the research and thoroughly enjoy learning everything I can about the subject.”