Stephanie Fowler

Galápagos adventure
Stephanie Fowler hiked mountains and volcanoes, encountered a shark while snorkeling, and slept aboard a yacht for seven nights during her recent LaGrange College study-away trip to the Galápagos Islands.

Along with her biology professor Dr. William Paschal, she and nine other students recently returned from the 10-day trip, taken during the "Jan Term," or the middle of the 4-1-4 academic calendar. During the first month of each year, LaGrange College students explore course content through hands-on, on-campus projects, independent research, internships and study-away experiences.

"It's such an interesting and unique place on this earth," says Stephanie, who just graduated with a biology degree and is now pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching degree. "I don't think there's anywhere else in the world you can find an ocean, a volcano, a rain forest and desert plants within a half-mile radius of each other."

The group flew from Atlanta Jan. 6 to Miami and then to Quito, Ecuador, where they spent two nights. While in Quito, they performed water droplet testing and saw firsthand how water spins counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere (due to magnetic pole differences in the earth's rotation). They also visited Mitad del Mundo, or the Middle of the World monument, which marks where the northern and southern hemispheres meet.

They then flew to the island of Baltra in the Galápagos, where they boarded a yacht for their week's adventure.

"We woke up every morning in a different location," Stephanie says. "We were able to go hiking and snorkeling, and to see all the animals and vegetation we had studied before the trip. My favorites were the sea lions, and I realized when I got home I had taken 600 pictures just of them."

Stephanie also saw many types of birds in their natural habitat, including blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and the waved albatross. She and fellow LaGrange College students also spotted dolphins and whales on a three-hour voyage from Española Island to Floreana Island.

"While I was snorkeling, I swam right through a school of fish and got up close with white-tipped sharks," Stephanie says. "I saw many, many types of starfish, flounder, angelfish and Sally Lightfoot crabs.

"You're not allowed to feed animals on the islands; there are very strict regulations because 97 percent of the islands are a national park," she says. "But just like the animals in the water, the animals on land would get very close. They're used to not being afraid of people because of the tourism. They looked like they were posing for pictures, actually."

Well before the trip, Stephanie took an evolution class from Dr. Paschal. She was eager to see where Charles Darwin based his theories after he studied finches and other animals and plants there in 1831, the same year LaGrange College was established.

Stephanie says the trip will better prepare her to teach high-school biology after she earns her Master of Arts in Teaching degree. The college offers the one-year degree for those who have a four-year degree and want to become certified middle school or high school teachers.

"How his studies relate macro-evolution and micro-evolution is pretty controversial, especially for me, who is someone of deep faith," Stephanie says.   "I realized after taking the class that as a teacher, it would be a difficult subject for me to teach, but I can't pass over it because my students will be tested on it.

"The trip has enabled me to realize you can study these things and disregard the controversy by delving deep into the science part of it, by seeing that the Galápagos has different wildlife and different vegetation that are endemic to these islands," she says. "If I could relay that message to my students and hopefully one day take a class of my own there, that would be awesome."

Friends for the Journey

LaGrange College attracts the best and the brightest from all over the world. For example, our most recent incoming class consisted of men and women from 19 states and 10 countries, and included:

  • 76 members of Beta Club or the National Honor Society
  • 71 members of service organizations
  • 51 team captains in varsity sports
  • 25 leaders involved in student government, with 11 presidents
  • Three students involved in school publications, one as editor
  • Two Eagle Scouts
  • 20 musicians in band or orchestra
  • 18 singers in choir
  • 31 entertainers in performing arts
  • 85 students in religious activities.

But you don’t have to be a star in high school to succeed at LaGrange. Here, you’re given the opportunity to discover the best in yourself and find your destiny – all in a caring and supportive environment.