CSU Professional Science Masters Makes a Difference at RMRP




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From the time she was little, Annie Wallin knew she wanted to work with zoo animals. She majored in biology and zoology as an undergraduate and got accepted into a veterinary school. But then
Wallin read about a new master’s degree at CSU that prepares students to manage zoos, aquariums and animals shelters, and she changed course.  “I had never heard of this type of program before,” the Utah native said. “I thought I had to become a veterinarian to work with animals.”
In May, Wallin and four of her classmates will become the first students to graduate from Colorado State with a master’s degree in zoo, aquarium and animal shelter management.



Housed in the College of Natural Sciences, the CSU program is one of only two such graduate degrees in the country. And it’s the only one in which students pursue advanced training while also developing workplace and business management skills.  “Ours is an interdisciplinary program that emphasizes a combination of coursework and hands-on experience,” said
Paul Laybourn, College of Natural Sciences graduate program director. “It combines applied science with management coursework to produce a well-rounded professional.”

The CSU program has garnered support from animal advocates like Judy Scherpelz, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program.  When Scherpelz joined the Fort Collins nonprofit 20 years ago, she cared for the rescued birds. But as the organization has grown,
so has her role. The wildlife biologist now spends most of her time managing staff and business operations. Her experience, Scherpelz said, is common in animal organizations and is why she is a proponent of the CSU program.  “Everybody starts because they have a passion for animals,” she said. “By default, someone is pushed into an administrative role even if they don’t have management or business experience. This program changes that dynamic. It takes people with a passion for animals and provides them with the scientific knowledge and business skills to run these organizations.”

The need for both science and business was reinforced during the professional projects Wallina and her classmates were required to complete. All worked for various animal organizations and performed a variety of tasks, from organizing fundraisers to writing training manuals or protocols. “It takes a lot of different people and skills to operate
a shelter or run a zoo or aquarium,” said Jennie Willis, a CSU instructor of animal behavior who teaches courses for the program. “Our students learn about those other aspects through their coursework and professional experiences. This program prepares them for the business side and animal side of these operations.”

Wallin said she learned the value of both through her work with the fledgling Poudre River Wildlife Center, a Fort Collins nonprofit that will rescue squirrels, foxes and other native animals.  The experience also made her realize she wants to work in outreach and education. “I like working with volunteers and educating the public about coexistence with
animals,” she said. To learn more about Colorado State’s master’s degree in zoo,
aquarium and animal shelter management, go to col.st/1bRUKGP.


The Fort Collins Coloradoan published a special insert in Sunday, April 20th covering CSU.  To see full article click here: PSM Cindy Hoang

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