Contact person: Meg Henderson

Rebecca Bracken (Submitted Photo)

STARKVILLE, Mississippi—A Mississippi State doctoral student in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture is honored with an award from the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society.

Rebecca Bracken, who will soon be defending her dissertation, is one of 200 Phi Kappa Phi members nationwide to receive her annual Love of Learning award, a $500 post-baccalaureate professional development scholarship. Bracken was first inducted into the PKP during her master’s program at Texas State University in 2014 and was reinstated in 2020 during her doctoral program at MSU.

“This is the second award I’ve received from Phi Kappa Phi, the first being the Graduate Research Award last year,” Bracken said. “The financial support from this award has helped me fund outreach workshops for undergraduate students, and this year I will be able to continue that outreach and attend an upcoming conference.”

Originally a pre-vet major at Miami University of Ohio, Bracken discovered her enjoyment of working outdoors and decided to change her academic focus, earning a BS in Zoology and earning a Masters in biology.

During his doctoral studies under advisor and associate professor Scott Rush, Bracken studied the effects of silvicultural management in privately-operated forests on breeding and wintering passerines, or roosting birds. With her research focused on assessing wildlife-habitat relationships, she has worked on bird banding during the winter to determine how different species use the forest and to study the prevalence of parasites in overwintering birds.

Bracken credits Rush for encouraging her to reinstate her membership as a doctoral student.

“I was unaware of the rewards opportunities offered by Phi Kappa Phi, but hearing about it from my advisor prompted me to renew my membership,” she said.

Rush, former president of MSU’s PKP chapter, thought Bracken would be a strong candidate.

“A lot of graduate students aren’t aware of scholarship opportunities from university societies, so when someone deserving like Rebecca comes along, you definitely want to encourage them to apply,” Rush said.

Bracken said she is grateful for the recognition and professional opportunities the award will support.

“It’s always rewarding to be recognized for your work, and I will definitely benefit from financial support, but it’s also been a great experience to learn how to sell myself,” she said. “When you’re honored by people who don’t know you and who only judge you on your candidacy, that means a lot.”

To learn more about the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture at MSU’s College of Forest Resources, visit

MSU is the main university in Mississippi available online at