Miami University’s Project Dragonfly, an online science graduate program and education reform initiative, has added a partnership with the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Florida. This makes the ninth zoo or botanical garden partner for the program.
The graduate program is completed online but also requires experiential learning, which is why Miami has formed relationships with the different institutions.
Institutions are selected based on their proximity to the graduate students, and the students are expected to take initiative in approaching their local zoo or botanical garden about partnering with Miami.
Miami has established partnerships with the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the Denver Zoo, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, the Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Global, the Woodland Park Zoo and the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Students interact with experts and zookeepers at the zoos while observing the plants and animals.
Jamie Bercaw Anzano, Project Dragonfly director of communications and research, has worked toward making the graduate program available to all students, including those who have full-time jobs or families.
“We wanted to make the program accessible and easy for working professionals to accomplish,” Anzano said.
The program takes anywhere from two and a half to five years to complete, depending on how much time the student puts toward their studies.
After completing online coursework through Miami instructors and participating in experiential learning at one of the partnerships, students receive one of two masters degrees: a Master of Arts in biology or a Master of Arts in teaching biological sciences.
Miami became involved with the Jacksonville Zoo because of graduate student Matt Hallet.
Hallet was a graduate student at Miami and became affiliated with the Jacksonville Zoo while completing his doctorate in Florida. He wanted a way to study outside the classroom and asked about adding a partnership with the zoo.
Miami began planning the partnership with the zoo in 2016. Anzano said it took a few years to form a relationship and develop a partnership with Jacksonville and that partnerships around the country allow for more students to gain access to the program.