To spend weeks in Costa Rica immersing himself in scientific research and studying with a world-renowned scientist was an opportunity Dwight Holloway ’24 could not have even imagined as a boy, despite his deep affinity for the natural world.
By Meghan Decker Szvetecz ’08, Fall 2023
When Holloway was a teen, the idea of attending college at all—let alone conducting scientific research—seemed unfathomable. “I would have said there was no way in the world I would go to school and do as well as I’m doing,” he says. “Now I’m even entertaining the idea of becoming a professor.”
Growing up in rural Georgia, Holloway, 37, spent his childhood exploring the outdoors. His mother instilled her love of nature, and Holloway has fond memories of their forages for button-top mushrooms. Holloway says he was raised in the church and has always found his spiritual connection in nature—whether catching snapping turtles, fishing, or hiking through the woods. To celebrate his high school graduation, one of Holloway’s older brothers took him backpacking through the mountains of Georgia.
With not even a thought to college, Holloway spent the next eight years serving in the US Navy, followed by four years in the US Air Force. In 2017, Holloway and his wife, Rachel Leon, a current Bethlehem City Councilwoman, put down roots in Leon’s hometown with their son, Joshua, now 12.
After his discharge from the air force, Holloway began studying to become a personal trainer but realized this would not be a sustainable career option. That’s when he considered using his GI Bill benefits to take college courses, landing at Northampton Community College, where he earned his associate degree in environmental science. “I thought, I love nature, I love being outside, maybe this is the route for me,” he says.
As a veteran, Holloway valued Moravian’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which helps veterans afford private schools by waiving a portion of their tuition. He also learned that it was the only area school to offer an environmental studies degree. He says that from the moment he met with his transfer advisor, Moravian has been a welcoming place where the faculty truly cares about his success.
Two of those faculty members are Sara McClelland, assistant professor of biological sciences, and Diane Husic, director of the environmental studies and sciences program and Holloway’s advisor. McClelland collaborated with Holloway to develop a SOAR (Student Opportunities for Academic Research) project in environmental science examining feeding competition between male Howler monkeys and other group members.
I would have said there was no way in the world I would go to school and do as well as I’m doing. Now I’m even entertaining the idea of becoming a professor.”
—Dwight Holloway ’24
That project involved two trips to the Camaquiri Conservation Initiative in Limón, Costa Rica. During the first, over spring break, Holloway and fellow students learned how to annotate information observed in the field; create graphs, tables, and charts with that data; and study the tracks of animals living within Camaquiri’s 500 acres of rainforest. Jill Pruetz, a professor at Texas State University and protegé of Jane Goodall, taught a course on primate field techniques. In the summer, Holloway returned to Costa Rica to finish collecting data for his SOAR project.
“My trips to Costa Rica to learn about primatology were amazing,” he says. “The skills I learned will be carried with me as I progress in my career. I am so thankful for the guidance and knowledge that was shared with me. I now have a great network of friends and mentors that I look forward to seeing in the future.”
“Every chance he had to go into the rainforest or explore something new, he did,” says Husic. “Dwight is a highly engaged and ever-curious student.”
“Dwight is a thoughtful, engaged, and dedicated scientist,” says McClelland. “He thinks about his research question from different angles to ensure he is using the best protocols to test his hypothesis and spends time ensuring that he understands his data before making any conclusions. Dwight is becoming an excellent scientist, and he has a bright future ahead of him.”
Holloway looks up to Husic and McClelland, inspired by women working in a predominantly male field and breaking barriers much like he hopes to achieve as a role model for his son and other Black students. “I would love to teach so that I could help with the diversification of the field of science in general,” he says.
It’s why he makes time to volunteer as an outdoor recreational coordinator with Afros in Nature, a local group aiming to “create safe spaces for Black individuals to get outdoors and experience things that they might not have the chance to experience, like whitewater rafting, mountain biking,
and hiking,” says Holloway.
Set to graduate in December, Holloway has been invited to be a teaching assistant in the spring. That means another chance to return to Costa Rica, but this time, he says, “I’ll actually be able to help lead some of
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