Senior Spotlight: Ally Akyol

Akyol will graduate with a degree in parks, recreation and sport.

Ally Akyol made the most out of her time at the University of Missouri. A Columbia, Mo., native, Akyol took part in hands-on learning experiences, a study abroad program and experiential learning opportunities.

Her time in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) also prepared for her future career – a career that she has already begun. Akyol was hired in October as an outdoor experience specialist with the Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland. She will graduate in December from MU with a degree in parks, recreation and sport.

“I’m excited to take all that I’ve learned through this degree and apply it to my new career,” Akyol said. “I’ve had so many good hands-on learning experiences, and it’s going to be great to take the lessons I’ve learned and put them to use. CAFNR really set me up to be successful.”

After graduating from Rock Bridge High School, Akyol spent two years traveling, eventually finding her way to Bellingham, Washington. With a passion for marine conservation and the outdoors, Akyol was able to be close to the ocean and had plenty of opportunities to explore nature. She also spent time working in hospitals and received emergency medical training during those two years, gaining valuable experience related to healthcare.

When Akyol returned to Columbia, she decided to pursue a degree at MU.

“CAFNR was definitely a big draw when I decided to apply to Mizzou,” Akyol said. “The programs within the college were really appealing to me.”

Originally focused on fisheries and wildlife, Akyol switched her major from natural resource science and management to parks, recreation and sport after a short while. She completed an internship with Columbia Parks and Recreation that gave her a look at all parks and recreation could entail.

“I made so many important networking contacts through that internship,” Akyol said. “I was also exposed to different sectors and areas that I had never worked in before, such as the various sports leagues that are offered. It was such a valuable time and completely worthwhile.”

Akyol took part in the Thailand study abroad program where she got to explore her passion for marine conservation in-depth. The 3-week program, which took place over winter break, coincides with Thailand’s dry season – the best time of the year to be in the country for biodiversity and conservation projects. Akyol was able to partake in numerous new experiences, including scuba diving and helping with coral rehabilitation.

“That was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Akyol said.

Akyol’s job with Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland will allow her to put all of her CAFNR experiences to good use. She will be creating various high adventure programs for participants.

“Honestly, this is a dream job for me – and one I’m very thankful to secure right out of college,” Akyol said. “It’s an amazing opportunity.”

Akyol said that the department where she’ll be working – outdoor experience – is brand new. She is currently in the process of planning several outdoor programs and building multiple partnerships with potential collaborators.

“I’m definitely having a lot of fun,” Akyol said. “We essentially get to build out some of our programs from scratch, which is really exciting. Our supervisor has been great as well, encouraging us to dream big.”

Akyol said she is already putting together a few summer programs for next year, including one focused on scuba diving and another focused on backpacking/hiking.

“I’m very thankful for all of my experiences in CAFNR,” Akyol said. “The faculty in the parks, recreation and sport degree program did such a good job of guiding me and preparing me for the future. I’m ready to take what I’ve learned and help girls throughout the state.”