• Natasha  Zarnstorff
  • Natasha Zarnstorff

  • Enrolled at ESU to see the world

  • If Natasha Zarnstorff was asked to write an ad for Emporia State University, she might use a gorgeous, tranquil ocean beach scene with text that says, “Enroll at Emporia State and spend time in the Bahamas or at Dauphin Island in the Gulf of Mexico.”

    That could indeed be truth in advertising. But it would not be the whole story.

    Zarnstorff, an environmental biology major with plans to graduate in May 2012, can tell you the rest of the story about why she believes Emporia State is a great choice, even without the island adventures.

    “My first impression of the school was that it was small compared to K-State and KU, and that it was homey,” says Zarnstorff. “I liked the campus. It didn’t seem too big, but there was still a lot to do at Emporia.”

    Zarnstorff, who is an ambassador for the biology department, helping to recruit students, lists her selling points like this:

    • Small campus with big opportunities

    • Most classes, except some general education courses, are small

    • Friendly professors willing to help you

    • Wonderful educational field trips

    • Research with faculty and opportunities to present research nationally

    • Internships

    • Flat tuition

    Natasha ZarnstorffAnd she has solid advice for students looking for a good fit for their university studies.

    “My advice to a student trying to decide on a school is to look at the professors as well as the university as a whole,” she explains. “The people can make all the difference. If you have great professors who are friendly and willing to help, it can make the education and experience so much better.”

    When she was hunting for a college, Zarnstorff visited ESU three or four times after visiting KU and K-State. Her first impression was that Emporia State “felt like home.” Zarnstorff, a graduate of Mill Valley High School, took in a Hornet football game during one visit and sat in on a marine biology class and tagged along on a stream ecology field trip.

    Of course, there are the trips, too.

    “These have made a huge difference in my education,” says Zarnstorff. “I feel that without hands-on experiences, it’s hard to learn and truly understand if this is what you want to do.”

    Besides a 10-day trip to the Bahamas for a tropical field ecology class that solidified her career choice as marine biology, Zarnstorff was selected to be part of the National Science Foundation research opportunity at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. She was one of seven undergraduates around the nation to be part of the Research Experience of Undergraduates (REU) Program.

    Zarnstorff conducted research on the restoration of sea grasses. She then presented that research to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

    Emporia State also offered Zarnstorff a chance to do independent research projects and work with a marine biologist. She helped Dauphin Island Sea Lab with sea turtle beach patrols and will present her project findings at the Benthic Ecology meeting in Virginia.

    Zarnstorff participated in a black-footed ferret survey in western Kansas and was a technician on a bat survey in south-central Kansas aimed at studying White Nose Syndrome in bats. Her internship was with the Emporia Zoo her freshman year.

    Obviously well prepared by ESU, Zarnstorff plans to get a master’s degree in marine biology and then work on a doctorate.

    And from there, the world will be her lab.