A Major Change: How the 2023 Dinosaur Dig Influenced Vi Lowe to Attend Westminster College
Vi Lowe is a 2023 graduate of Fulton High School who attended the 2023 Dinosaur Dig as a guest of Westminster College, with firm plans to attend a larger university in the fall. The Fulton, Missouri, resident quickly fell in love with the hands-on nature of Westminster’s Environmental Science major and the one-on-one interaction with faculty members and others. The experience completely altered Lowe’s future plans. Read further to learn more.
My experience with Shady helped guide my decision to attend Westminster because I realized that there is no other school that would provide me with these opportunities and the hands-on mentorship that I’m receiving. If I were to attend a bigger school as originally planned, there would be heavy competition for the experiences and resources that are so easy to access at Westminster.
As a recent high school graduate who wasn’t already attending Westminster, how did you get involved in the Shady dig?
I became involved with the Shady dig through taking Introduction to Museum Studies at Westminster in the first semester of my senior year of high school. I had an open spot in my schedule but had exhausted all of the high-level classes or classes that were tailored to my interests at the high school, so I decided to explore my options at Westminster. One of our assignments was working with Dr. Schmidt to make a glass case for some of Shady’s bones and information related to Shady. This led me to become involved in volunteering to prepare some of the fossils, which ultimately led to my involvement with this year’s dig.
What duties were you involved with during the dig?
At the site, a majority of the duties were shared between everyone working. For example, we used awls and paintbrushes to expose the fossils, covered them in tin foil, and plastered the top so that they could be rolled over and removed from the ground. The more “professional” tasks, like identifying what the bone was and what part of the body it would’ve belonged to, documenting the finds, and more, were left to Dr. Schmidt.
What did you enjoy the most about the experience? The least?
Honestly, the experience in its entirety was my favorite part. When I try to think of one specific aspect that sticks out the most, there are too many things that tie in first place for “what I enjoyed most.” Working with one of my favorite animals, quite literally doing my dream job, the excitement when anyone found another bone, and even parts that weren’t related to the dig, like sharing stories around the campfire, they were all important to me. My least favorite part was missing out on the first few days due to our car breaking down on the way up, but the time I spent up there wholly made up for it.
How did the experience help guide your decision to attend Westminster?
My experience with Shady helped guide my decision to attend Westminster because I realized that there is no other school that would provide me with these opportunities and the hands-on mentorship that I’m receiving. If I were to attend a bigger school as originally planned, there would be heavy competition for the experiences and resources that are so easy to access at Westminster. Typically, it’s very difficult and rare to find paleontological opportunities as an undergraduate, but before I was even enrolled, I was able to get involved in said opportunities, which definitely influenced my decision to attend.
What majors were you previously considering, and what are you thinking you will major in now?
I was previously going to major in Geosciences at a different school, and at Westminster I’m planning on doing a double major in Museum Studies and Environmental Science with an emphasis in Environmental Geology. My interests have stayed the same in terms of what my major would be, but Westminster’s offerings are much more tailored to the specific career setting I’d like to pursue.
Would you describe yourself as a hands-on learner? If so, can you describe how working with Dr. Schmidt satisfied that aspect of your learning style?
I’m definitely a hands-on learner. I can grasp information just fine in other ways, but being able to experience things firsthand is incredibly helpful to me and strengthens my interest in the topic. Working with Dr. Schmidt satisfies this learning style because he obviously has great care and passion for what he does, and he wants to share it with others who have the same passion. He was more than willing to teach us the most effective methods for excavating and plastering the bones, as well as how to identify certain geological features and locate potential dig sites.
Do you know of specific “Shady activities” you will be participating in once you are on campus?
I’ll absolutely be continuing to work with Shady while on campus. I have experience with preparing the fossils, which involves removing the matrix and soil from the surface of the bone and cleaning them, and I’d like to continue doing that.