Make The Connection

September 15, 2016

Michael Durfee ’17 (center, in striped trunks) traveled to Mexico as part of The OWU Connection program to earn a Professional Divemaster rating. He hopes to work in parklands after graduation. (Photo courtesy of Michael Durfee)

Diving Into Learning

OWU’s Small Grant Program Helps Student Make a Splash

By Gopika Nair '18

Name: Michael Durfee ’17
Major(s): Environmental Studies and Medieval Studies
Hometown: Ithaca, New York
Experience: Diving Internship aided by the OWU Small Grant Program for Signature Projects.

Durfee traveled to Cozumel, Mexico, over the summer to earn his Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Professional Divemaster rating. During his training, Durfee learned that becoming a good role model is one of the most essential duties of a diver.

Lessons learned: “One of the first lessons we are taught as divers is that we are the stewards, the voice of, and the ambassadors of the underwater world. Nobody else has the means to be so intimate with this environment.

“PADI stresses the importance of the environment throughout a diver’s training. They teach us how to be careful of sensitive aquatic ecosystems: by maintaining good buoyancy, kicking properly, knowing we won’t be attacked by animals unless we harass them, or simply by not touching things.

“I went to Cozumel to earn my PADI Professional Divemaster rating. I chose a very good location for this training. Reasons for this are many, but primarily for the fact that the waters [surround] a huge marine national park. All divers are required to be extra careful and mindful. Additionally, there are extensive, complex coral reefs along the entire west side of the island. There was greater pressure for me to become a better, more skilled diver here.

“Diving these world-famous coral reefs was remarkable and eye-opening for me. I am familiar with numerous species of fish and am only just beginning to understand how they interconnect to form this ecosystem. I learned how a coral reef works in its most fundamental sense and how nearby wetlands like Mangroves can be essential to the reefs’ continued survival.

“[During training], it was pushed on me that one of my most essential duties is to be a good role model. This means being a skillful and knowledgeable diver, embracing and adhering to PADI Standards (which keep divers and the environment safe) and Project AWARE teachings.

“I see this duty extending past the diving realm and into anywhere in life. To be a Divemaster is an authority; it is an expertise in something. People can look up to that, even outside of diving. I am, therefore, charged to be a role model in and outside of diving.”

Why I chose Ohio Wesleyan: “I chose Ohio Wesleyan for its fantastic Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program and the expansive and inspiring opportunities for me to study abroad in many formative ways.”

My plans after graduation: “After graduation, I intend to move out west for work in park lands and to participate in some international and domestic volunteer programs for natural conservation and restoration, and betterment of other people’s lives.”