F&M Stories

Mary Adams ’24 Embraces All F&M Has to Offer

Mary Adams ’24 is a recipient of The Dean Breidenstine Endowed Scholarship from Joseph A. Savastio, M.D.; the Brown-Fishman Endowed Financial Aid Fund; The Dennis S. Buchan ’65 Endowed Scholarship Fund; and The Stanley V. Cheslock, Jr. ’67 Endowed Scholarship Fund, and she is a recipient of a Schapiro-Cadwell Internship Endowment grant. 

Mary Adams began her senior year even further outside her comfort zone than normal — she completed her fall semester studying at the University College Dublin. The speed at which she adapted to life in another country surprised her, particularly because she spent most of the summer anxious about what study abroad might look like. After all, she had never even been on a plane before she left for Ireland.

“Maybe it hasn’t hit me yet, but I feel like I’ve been adjusting fine, especially considering I had been so nervous the whole summer,” she recalled in mid-September, just a few weeks into classes.

For Adams, choosing F&M was, in part, about exploring that unknown and seeing what options were available.

When she was looking at colleges, Adams knew she wanted to study animals. She also knew she wanted to attend a college that included academic breadth in areas outside her major. The fact that F&M had a strong Animal Behavior Studies program was appealing and offered new perspectives on the topics she was considering studying.

Mary Adams '24 study abroad

“I’ve been interested in animals my whole life. [As far as a major] I didn’t really know what that looked like.” Adams said. “When I researched F&M, I saw they had this whole animal behavior program, which I had never seen anywhere else. I thought that it was cool it was something animal-related in an undergraduate setting, that wasn’t specifically pre-vet. That stood out to me. And, while I didn’t choose animal behavior, I like that all the classes are available.”

Adams chose to major in biology and minor in both environmental studies and French. “I love nature, and I wanted something a little broader. I was really glad to have those classes, professors and resources open to me,” she said.

Those experiences, said Adams, are available only thanks to a generous financial aid package she received when she accepted her invitation to attend F&M.

“Without financial aid, I don’t know if I would have been able to attend college,” she said. “I mean, it has been everything. I don’t know if I would have been able to go to school. The aid package that I receive from F&M is so gracious and has given me the ability to be successful in a higher education institution.”

And, thanks to the support that she’s received from grants and scholarships, Adams has embraced all that F&M has to offer — including classes, experiences and student activities that weren’t even on her radar when she first set foot on campus.

Following her sophomore year, Adams completed a summer internship at the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge Rehabilitation Hospital in Medford, N.J. There, she helped care for foxes, raccoons, opossums and other animals. Thanks to a grant from the Schapiro-Cadwell Internship Endowment, specifically designed to support students in unpaid or minimally paid internships in sustainability, conservation or environmental work, she didn’t have to choose between working a summer job and conducting meaningful work that advanced her studies and career aspirations.

Before she departed for Dublin, she began an independent study with Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Biology Dan Ardia to research bird populations at F&M’s Spalding Conservancy, a 54-acre property that serves as a field study location for F&M faculty and students. So far she’s completed her literature review and research, and when she returns to campus, she’ll begin her fieldwork. 

"The aid package that I receive from F&M is so gracious and has given me the ability to be successful in a higher education institution."

- Mary Adams '24

“I’m conducting a study with birds that takes place in Spalding using thermal cameras. We’re categorizing the landscape and three different habitats over the course of a semester,” Adams explained. “As the seasons change, do the birds change? Where do they go, and when, and why?” 

That curiosity and willingness to dive headlong into understanding her discipline has paid dividends: During her junior year, Adams was inducted into the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and awarded the Bradford S. Kline Memorial Prize and the Isaac E. Roberts Prize for Biology. 

And while the deep engagement within her areas of study has been rewarding for Adams, it hasn’t stopped her from participating in the student life opportunities on F&M’s campus. In addition to membership in F&M’s Women and Gender Minorities in STEM club, she ended up joining WFNM, the College’s radio station. 

Now, with her final semester in sight, Adams is taking a moment to slow down and think about the journey ahead. She’s considering a year of field research to gain more experience in conservation before continuing to advanced study. 

“I would like to pursue grad school, but I want to know specifically what I want to do,” she said. “Eventually, I’d love to open my own animal sanctuary, rescue animals and rehabilitate local wildlife.” 

Adams is clear about the impact donors have had on her education. 

“I had never been on a plane,” she said. “I never thought I’d be able to study abroad or decide I could commit to an unpaid internship. But I’ve done all this. And it’s all possible because of F&M and financial aid.” 

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