FTG 0067 – A (Nittany) Lion Running the Zoo with Wildlife Educator Jessica Greensmith ’13

Episode 9 May 28, 2024 01:22:42
FTG 0067 – A (Nittany) Lion Running the Zoo with Wildlife Educator Jessica Greensmith ’13
Following the Gong, a Podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
FTG 0067 – A (Nittany) Lion Running the Zoo with Wildlife Educator Jessica Greensmith ’13

May 28 2024 | 01:22:42

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Hosted By

Sean Goheen

Show Notes

Overview:

FTG goes to the animals as Jessica Greensmith ’13 Agricultural Sciences joins to talk all things zoos, conservations centers, and more! Jessica earned her BS in Animal Science with Honors in Wildlife and Fisheries with the original intention of becoming a veterinarian. Study abroad and research opportunities led her to find her path elsewhere – including ballroom dancing along the way – to working as a professional heritage interpreter at a variety of zoos and centers across the US, including Disney’s Animal Kingdom and New England. Jessica shares incredible perspectives on finding your career fit, overcoming failures and setbacks, research, and the role of volunteers in organizations like zoos. She also explains the role of zoos in the 21st century, working in a niche industry, completing fellowships and internships after college, and the power of maintaining relationships from Penn State and beyond. This episode is great for any Scholar, and especially those re-thinking what they wanted to be in their career, dancers, animal lovers, and those pursuing careers related to animals, non-profits and community organizations, or in smaller industries. Jessica’s bio is available below along with chapter markers detailing the topics discussed.

Guest Bio:

Jessica Greensmith ’13 Agr is a professional heritage interpreter in Boston, MA. Over the last 10 years, she has worked for Zoos, Forest Preserve Districts and conservation organizations creatively facilitating connections between people and conservation in order to deepen understanding and encourage action on behalf of wildlife and natural places. Most recently, she was Interpretation Manager at Zoo New England in Boston, MA. She earned a BS in Animal Science with Honors in Wildlife and Fisheries from Penn State in 2013. She would love to speak further with anyone interested in Conservation Psychology, Heritage Interpretation, Environmental Education or careers in Zoos, Aquariums and Museums! Connect with Jessica at [email protected].

Episode Topic & Chapters:

 00:00       Introduction

00:33       Defining professional interpretation

02:12       Deciding on Penn State and Schreyer

03:45       The PA Farm Show

05:02       Undergrad research to save the bees and studying abroad as an Ag major

09:34       Shifting off the pre-veterinarian path

11:11       Dealing with rejections from graduate programs

12:33       Finding balance outside the classroom with ballroom dance

15:02       The Honors Thesis!

21:31       Working at Disney's Animal Kingdom

25:20       Finding a next step after a professional internship

28:16       Developing people and presentations skills as an animal focused grad

31:45       Completing multiple fellowships and internships in a small field

36:21       Jess's experiences at different zoos

45:51       Working across teams in an organization & non-traditional events at the Zoo

48:45       Managing volunteers - like those in a student group

52:34       The role of the zoo in the 21st century

55:49       Getting a job at a zoo or a similarly niche industry

59:28       Managing breaks in your resume

01:04:00  Work life balance

01:09:20  Biggest successes and failures

01:12:35  Approaching mentorship

01:14:30  Shoutouts!

01:17:14  Final pieces of advice

01:18:02  How to connect with Jessica

01:19:28  Which Creamery flavor Jessica would be and why

01:21:46  Wrap up and final thoughts

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Credits & Notes:

This show is hosted, produced, and edited by Sean Goheen '11 Lib (Schreyer), '23g Bus.

The artwork was created by Tom Harrington, the College’s Web Developer. 

The sound effect is “Chinese Gong,” accessed via SoundBible used under Creative Commons License. 

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:07] Speaker A: Welcome to following the Gong, a podcast for Schreier scholars bringing you mentoring on demand from scholar alumni. I'm your host, Sean Gohen, and our guest today is Jessica Greensmith, class of 2013, who is a professional heritage interpreter, educator and conservationist. You can read her full bio in the description wherever you're engaging with us today. Jess, thank you so much for joining us all the way from Boston. [00:00:30] Speaker B: Good morning, Shawn. Thank you for having me. [00:00:33] Speaker A: Well, you can tell we're recording in the morning, so we'll do our best to be nice and caffeinated for you no matter what time you are watching this when it comes out. Now, Jess, I normally start by asking how you came to Penn State, but I'm going to say that for my second question to frame our conversation today, I'd love if you can start by explaining my introduction of you as a professional heritage interpreter. What does that mean? [00:00:59] Speaker B: That is a great question and I get that a lot. I think it's something that people aren't very familiar with. So I'm really excited to be here to explain it a little more. So I'll ask you, actually, what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of interpretation? [00:01:15] Speaker A: Probably asl for the hard of hearing in the deaf community would be my guess. [00:01:22] Speaker B: Yep. Excellent. So that's usually what comes to mind for most people. Probably our listeners were thinking language of some sort. So I'd like you to keep that in your mind. But I'm not necessarily translating one language to another. I am translating either a resource or some sort of topic. And in my case, that is animals and conservation. So when you're interpreting language, you are still trying to connect to people who can't necessarily understand each other. And that's what I do as well. So I am just translating the animals for visitors at a zoo. [00:02:01] Speaker A: Gotcha. That is really, really cool. I have a better understanding of that now. And I hope you watching or listening at home later on have a better understanding now, too, to frame our chat today. Now we'll get to the Penn State part of our story here. Jesse, as always, how did you end up coming to Penn State and the shrier honors college when it was time to pick a college for you? [00:02:23] Speaker B: So I always thought that I was going to be a veterinarian. And so I love, love animals. You can tell I'm working a lot with animals from my introduction, translating them for people. So I knew that's what I was going to look for. So I was looking at schools and universities that had strong animal science programs so top of the list came Penn State. I was from Pennsylvania, so that was very appealing. I came from Hershey, Pennsylvania, and I was also looking at schools such as Cornell, which has a vet school. So that was very appealing. And Virginia Tech, so they had strong animal science programs, vet schools. I was accepted to all of those. But when I got into shrier, I was really excited because not only would I get the awesome academic rigor of Schreier and the honors program, but I would also get all the benefits of Penn State as a massive university. I knew it had a massive alumni network and I could benefit from all the clubs and the sports. I'm a really big football fan. I went to all of the home football games, so I was really excited for that aspect, but then also challenging myself through the academic programs of the honors college. [00:03:45] Speaker A: So if you're from Hershey, Jess, I'm imagining, and especially being a grad of the College of Agricultural Sciences, you've had some experience with the farm show, not in the script here, but what advice do you have for Penn State students or folks who are from Pennsylvania? Maybe not from Pennsylvania in terms of checking out the annual farm show? [00:04:07] Speaker B: Just definitely do it. Definitely go. There is always a crazy butter sculpture, which is super fun to see. And you have to try the potato donuts and they have great milkshakes and there's live animals and fun tractor shows and all sorts of great things. So definitely go check it out. Even if you're not familiar with the agricultural community at all, it's got great food, so go check it out. [00:04:38] Speaker A: If you're in PA, did the animals there have an influence on your original drive to be a veterinarian? [00:04:46] Speaker B: I'm sure they did. From a very young age. I was always in love with animals. I did horseback riding as a child and was always had pets and was always fascinated by them. So it definitely helps solidify my love of animals. [00:05:02] Speaker A: So, Jess, we connected a little bit back, and you had shared that you had some really cool study abroad opportunities. Talking about those, going back, a couple of questions. What we're actually here to talk about in terms of the resources of the honors college, and you also shared those were like just jam packed with not just the travel, but also with the opportunity for undergraduate research. Can you tell us about these opportunities, what you've learned and how those experiences have influenced your career? And don't. We'll save the thesis for a separate question, so we'll dive into that. So up to that point, well, Schreier. [00:05:38] Speaker B: Was a really huge help in finding a lot of these opportunities. So I'm not sure that I would have known or been able to access some of these opportunities if it weren't for schreier. So I'm really grateful for that. And the first one was with an entomology lab, and that actually brought about my now still love of honeybees. They're my favorite animal in the whole world. So I worked with doctor Christina Grozinger's lab, and we, at the time, this was, gosh, ten years ago, colony collapse disorder was a really, really big, hot button problem. So if you're not familiar, colony collapse disorder was this strange phenomenon where honeybees were absconding or leaving the hive and just disappearing. Nope, they were never found. They were not coming back. They just disappeared and presumably died. So this is a huge problem because honeybees pollinate one out of every three foods that we eat. It's incredible. Thank honeybees. Next time you eat your favorite fruit or vegetable. So this lab was trying to look at what was causing this and what could be the reasons we can try and fix it. So I got to work very, very closely with honeybees, and we were particularly looking at some fungal diseases to see if that might be one of the causes. So that was really fun. I spent a whole summer doing that. I did get stung multiple times. Just nature of the beast, but totally worth it. I also got to harvest honey, which was really, really fun. So definitely a perk of that. And then the next one was really interesting and included some study abroad, kind of. As you mentioned, I got to travel. I worked with Doctor Blair Hedges in an evolutionary biology lab. So very kind of a different kind of a pivot in subject area, but still working with animals. We were trying to identify all the different species of frogs, lizards, and snakes in Haiti. So Doctor Hedge's mission was to prove that there's an incredible biodiversity of these herp species in Haiti and that they deserve protected areas and protection of the land. So we actually flew to Haiti, and we were on a mission to literally catch as many frog lizards and snakes as you could. So, if you can imagine this in your head for a moment, it was literally the middle of the night in a tent, waiting for the sun to set so that we could catch all these animals while they come out at night. And I'm crawling on my hands and knees in the dark with a headlamp, trying to chase after some very, very fast lizards. So absolutely hilarious. I was not very good at it, but I tried really hard, and we were pretty successful as a team, collecting several species and identifying them so that we could have just a big, long list of the diversity of this area. [00:09:02] Speaker A: So if you are not yet in the. In the college or, you know, you've got little cousins or nieces or nephews or siblings, sometimes you don't have to grow up. You can just keep on catching the frogs and toads and lizards out there. That's a really cool experience, Jess. [00:09:19] Speaker B: Exactly. Yep. I felt like I was, you know, ten years old again, just chasing after animals to put in my bucket. [00:09:27] Speaker A: So all those little things that you did as a kid can really kind of come back and be a part of your career. So who knew? Now, Jess, when you talked about coming to Penn State, we've alluded to this. You said that you were, like, dead set on being a vet, but obviously we've already talked that you are not a veterinarian. So what happened that changed course for you? And how did you find what was the best fit for you? [00:09:52] Speaker B: Yeah. So I hope it's not too early to say this, but I would say something I advise anyone I talk to or like to share, is that it's okay to change your mind. I changed my mind a lot through my life, and that's okay. And it can be really scary. It was really scary because I didn't necessarily know what the alternative was going to be, but I just decided that I had all these experiences, like in the lab, and I was experiencing all the stuff at Penn State, and I realized I just didn't see myself in a vet's office taking care of dogs and cats every day. I just realized there was so much more out there I could do. There's more animals I could care for or have more different ways I could interact with the animals than being a veterinarian. So it was kind of hard because that was a lifelong dream I always had. But I think it was also because I didn't know anything else. I just thought, I love animals, I should be a vet. But it was wonderful that Schreier and Penn State could expose me to different things I could do with animals. So then I, once I decided I wasn't going to be a vet anymore, I had to figure out, okay, now what? Yeah. So then at that point, it was terrifying, and I was like, all right, what do I do? So I had a lot of close friends in Shrier who were pursuing grad school, and I thought, okay, I really enjoyed working in these labs and doing research. I could try that. But turns out that when you apply to grad school, they are really looking for you to have a focus and know what you really want to do. So I obviously didn't have that. So I applied to all these grad schools. I really tried. I tried to nail down a focus, but it showed in my application that I just wasn't ready. And so I was rejected from several programs I applied to. And that was really tough. That was kind of the first time in my life that I really. I'm very lucky. I had worked very hard up to this point, and I was major rejections, and it was pretty hard for me to figure out how to handle. So then I started just looking around, and I had always also really loved Disney. And so I thought, you know what? I don't know what else to do right now. I really, really love Disney. There's this awesome opportunity where I could do a professional internship with animal kingdom, so why not try it? And so I applied, and I was accepted, and I spent the next year down in Disney World. [00:12:33] Speaker A: Awesome. So we will get to that part of it because I definitely want to hear about the animal kingdom. But we still have a little bit to talk about at Penn State before we move down to Orlando here in our conversation, and we do want to talk thesis, but there's one detour that I would like to take because it kind of jumped out at me at what you shared ahead of time. You found something that provided both a chance for leadership, which is part of our mission in the college, and a chance for balancing your stem heavy academic experience. What was that exactly? [00:13:08] Speaker B: I think you're referring to. I was president of the ballroom dance club. [00:13:13] Speaker A: I sure am. [00:13:15] Speaker B: Yeah. So this probably sounds a little random, considering everything else I've shared so far, but, you know, again, the appeal of Penn State was that there were so many different things to do, and there's all these different clubs, and you can find anyone who has a similar interest to you. So I also really love to dance. So I started taking some of the classes that the Penn State ballroom dance Club offers, and I even took their formal class for credit. And so that was an amazing community of people that I really loved and started looking for leadership opportunities through them and was the secretary first and then became the president. So I was responsible for organizing the different classes that the club offered and finding teachers, and it was really, really fun. Did a lot, a lot of dancing. [00:14:16] Speaker A: So how did that experience complement all of the academic background and the research opportunities as you moved into your career? [00:14:25] Speaker B: Well, it was obviously a very different kind of thing than all the academic work I was doing. So I guess it complemented it because it gave me kind of a relaxing outlet, and it was really nice to just go dance, especially when I was really stressed from studying or had a really big project due. Sometimes I just needed a break and would go out and practice or it was always easy to find some sort of dancing going on. So that was very helpful for my mental health. [00:15:02] Speaker A: Excellent. And things that can maybe challenge your mental health at times, but ultimately a rewarding experience is the thesis. So tell us about your project, what you learned, and how you use that experience in your career. [00:15:17] Speaker B: Yes, for any future or current scholars listening, I'm sure the thesis is looming over your heads. But it was really fun, and it's a really interesting exercise to go through and a great way to learn new things. I'll get to all the new things I learned, but it started from my true study abroad experience, which was in East Africa. So I have to thank ScHreier again. I'm not sure I would have gone to this particular program if I was not part of Schreier, because some of the scholarships that are available through Schreier made it possible. So that was a huge reason why I went, but I spent four months there. So one of my spring semesters at both Kenya and Tanzania, and this was an amazing program through the school for field studies. And while I was there, I was taking classes in wildlife management, wildlife ecology, animal behavior, Swahili, of course, too, which was really fun. And we were really ingrained in the community, which was a really fun part of the program. And so in that program, I also had to do kind of a final project. And the project that I was doing was evaluating the viability of sanctuaries as protected areas for wildlife. So the way it had worked in Kenya at the time, I believe it's similar now, but I'm not up to date exactly with how things are structured there now. But the government had given big swaths of land to the community and labeled them as sanctuaries, and so they were protected areas that the community could also benefit from, from tourism. And so visitors come in, want to see the animals come through, and pay a small fee, and can hopefully benefit the community. Well, unfortunately, the community didn't always know how to properly manage the land so that it would actually be used by wildlife, because it's not fenced in necessarily. It is designed to serve as a corridor or a pathway between the bigger, more protected and managed national parks. And so in a perfect world, there would be these protected corridors between that the wildlife could move. But some of these sanctuaries were used by the local community for their own livestock. And so livestock are very similar animals to a lot of wildlife, such as buffalo and zebras, and some of the animals, we hope would use it. And so there's direct competition. And so I would literally walk on foot through these sanctuaries with a local guide and a Kenya Wildlife service guard to evaluate and count the wildlife that we saw. And we would count wildlife, we would look at vegetation, and I would keep a record of everything I saw. There was only one time where I had to vary my path because there was a giant group of elephants in front of us. So I don't know if you can imagine walking through a sanctuary and just seeing elephants in front of you. But that is why we had the Kenya Wildlife Service guard with us, who was armed, just in case we came across any wildlife. I did see lion footprints as well, but never saw a lion, thankfully. But that was very exciting. And so then once I got back to Penn State, I turned that project into my thesis. So I worked with Doctor Duane Diefenbach in the forestry, wildlife and Fisheries department, and he helped me kind of expand on my research. And so I had to learn some pretty advanced statistics that were, I believe, graduate level statistics that were very difficult to try and expand upon the counts I had done to prove some of the points we were trying to make, that these sanctuaries needed a little bit more management to be effective. [00:19:50] Speaker A: So that is incredible, first of all, that you were, you know, this is like, actually like, recommendations that you could provide to the kenyan government, presumably, or community partners there. One, were you able to actually share that with anybody there when you completed your project? And then were you able to use any of these skills once you started working at the animal kingdom and all the other zoos that we'll get into here very shortly? [00:20:22] Speaker B: Yeah, I was never able to share, unfortunately, my full thesis that I worked on once I returned to Penn State. But at the end of my program, I was able to share my initial findings with the local community, which was, I think, maybe even more impactful than to me, than the research itself, because that may have been the experience that really shifted my desire to work with both animals and people, and not just animals. It was really powerful to speak with the local leaders and the local community about the issues they were facing, their perspective, their need for maintaining their own livelihoods and maintaining their own way of life, but then also trying to protect these wildlife. So I was able to present that to them and communicate with them, and I'm very grateful for that. And I think that's what made me decide I wanted to do that back home in zoos. [00:21:31] Speaker A: So you mentioned that the first zoo that you ended up working at was one of probably the most well known the animal kingdom at Disney World in Orlando. So tell us about that experience, because that's probably unique in the fact that it's also an amusement park with the rides and the branding and all the ip. So tell us what you did there, what that experience was like, and any other fun facts or stories from your time as a cast member. [00:22:01] Speaker B: Sure. So it was so fun. I think a lot of people are surprised, actually, to hear that animal kingdom is a fully accredited zoo. So there is an organization called the association of Zoos and Aquariums that accredits zoos around the country. And that means that these organizations are abiding by the highest standards of animal care, conservation projects, and visitor experience. And so animal kingdom is one of them. It's not just a Disney theme park. So I was doing what's called a professional internship there, and I was a wilderness explorer troop leader. So do you remember the movie up? Have you seen that Disney movie? [00:22:50] Speaker A: Absolutely. [00:22:52] Speaker B: Yep. So if anyone out there hasn't, it's very cute. I recommend you watch it. It's about a young boy who is a wilderness explorer, and he is desperately trying to earn his badges, and he forms a very sweet relationship with an older man down the street, and they go on a crazy adventure. So. But so as part of the theming of this story, I was a costumed character, essentially, where I was one of the leaders of this Russell's troupe, and I was helping. Yeah. If I wish, maybe I can share a photo with you. Yes. Goodness gracious. My costume was real cute. It was like the high waisted. [00:23:39] Speaker A: We'll insert that in for the video version here. [00:23:42] Speaker B: It was high waisted safari shorts, a big, like, you know, ranger safari hat, orange ascot, which is like a scarf that goes around your neck. Very cute. So I'll send that to you. But I was helping guests earn their badges, just like Russell did in the movie. So there were stations around the park, and you had to learn about different animals and different conservation projects that the zoo had in order to earn your badge. So very, very fun. And got to talk to a lot of different people from all over the world, which is really fun because everyone from all over the world comes to visit Disney. I got to practice my Spanish a little bit. There's a lot of spanish speakers who come and visit Disney, especially in kind of the summer months. So that was great. Maybe one of the funniest stories I have is I was working at the crocodile exhibit, and there were several guests who I just could not convince that the crocodile was real. They just, they cut everything I said there, even if it moved, they said, oh, you have a remote in your pocket. It's, it's animatronic. There's, there's no way this is real. So, unfortunately, I did, I did have some trouble convincing visitors that some of the animals were real because that's what they're expecting, because it's a theme park. But that was pretty funny. [00:25:10] Speaker A: You had to tell them, you know, hey, that's the jungle cruise over at Magic Kingdom. Those are the, those are the fake ones, right? Like, we've got the real thing here. [00:25:18] Speaker B: Exactly. Yep. [00:25:20] Speaker A: So you said that this was a professional internship, so obviously internships have an expiration date. So how did you go about finding the next step after this experience? [00:25:32] Speaker B: Yeah. Well, I wish I could have stayed there forever, but I knew it was time to move on and try something different. As much as I love Disney, I still visit all the time. But I started looking. I loved the work I was doing in terms of environmental education, and so I started looking for opportunities around that. And at the time, actually, my dance partner from Penn State, baller dance partner is now my husband. And he. [00:26:10] Speaker A: Way to bury the lead in our, earlier in our conference conversation about the ballroom dance club, Jess, I think, yeah. [00:26:19] Speaker B: Another benefit of joining the Penn State Ballroom dance club, you may find your future husband or wife. So he was headed up to Chicago for an opportunity, and so I started looking in that area for opportunities, and I found a really neat one at something that's kind of unique to Illinois. They're called forest preserve districts, kind of similar to, like, state parks in a way. So protected areas of land that are used and designated for different things. There is some hunting allowed on some of them, and some of them are fully protected. So they had a fun role. It was just a year, another something with a deadline, unfortunately. But it was a fellowship, environmental education. And so I thought this would be perfect. This would be a good way for me to really dive into this new career field that I didn't know a ton about yet and see if this was really for me. So I went up there, and I actually lived on one of the preserves, and I did all sorts of things. I went out with the wildlife biologist and flew in a helicopter to do more counts. We were, were counting deer. I've counted a lot of wildlife over the past few years. That was pretty fun. We would just fly, you know, it's called a transect, or kind of pre planned paths through an area to count the wildlife. The hope is that you're not double counting anything. And then I would also help them design programs, education programs for all ages. They also had a really nice nature center that I would help design signage and exhibits for and help care for the education animals. [00:28:16] Speaker A: That is really, really cool. And that kind of sets me up perfectly for my next question. So your academic background is primarily in the animal sciences, the hard biology, the statistics that you mentioned, but yet all of your career experiences is really on the people side. So how did you start building up the skill sets to work with and going back to the very beginning, interpret the animals to people? [00:28:44] Speaker B: That's a great question. So, yeah. And not only is was my background at Penn State more kind of technical, science based, but it was also very agricultural based. So all my classes were centered around, you know, pigs, horses, cows, chickens, very agricultural animals. And so I made a pretty big pivot to wildlife and zoo animals or exotic animals. So everything I learned was still helpful. I was still able to translate some of the, you know, scientific information that I knew about animals into similar types of animals. But I really had to kind of build up the people skills through these fellowships and experiences that I had. So my first few weeks at Animal Kingdom were really scary. I had historically been very nervous with public speaking, so it's pretty amazing to me, actually, looking back now that I pretty much do public speaking for my career because speech class in high school was a disaster. But I think it was through practice and just support from. I was really lucky to have some great leaders and trainers, and that's a reason why now I love to train others and teach others how to do this because I had some really great teachers along the way. But just practice putting yourself out there. And I would say, if anyone is trying to build their people skills or presentation skills, you're going to hate this, but record yourself and watch it. I still hate watching it myself, but you learn a ton, and it will help you develop those skills and feel a little bit more comfortable speaking when you see yourself doing it. I will also say, it's funny, it's so much easier to speak to strangers than it is to speak to my peers. I would say when I get out there in front of a crowd of 300 at the zoo, for some reason it feels easier than speaking with my coworkers or practicing with my coworkers, maybe practice with some strangers first, and then you can help practice feeling more comfortable speaking with colleagues. [00:31:18] Speaker A: I will echo everything that you just said, Jess, after listening to countless hours editing these podcast episodes and now starting to also have the video element, too, you really start to catch your own tics and things that you don't hear yourself speak. And then you hear it played back and you're like, why did I say it that way? Or, wow, I say the word awesome or fantastic a lot, so you can start to build that confidence. So I will definitely echo you there. Now, you said this experience with the forest district. Did I get that right? [00:31:50] Speaker B: Forest Preserve district. [00:31:51] Speaker A: Forest Preserve District in Illinois was a fellowship. So again, time limited. So you had experience doing the hard research here at Penn State, you had experience at the zoo, at the animal kingdom, and then more of, like, actually out in the world with something equivalent to a state park. How did you figure out, like, okay, which is the path that I want to go down next? What was your thought process there? How did you identify what you liked most and what resonated with you so that you could kind of start narrowing in on which opportunities you would pursue next? [00:32:23] Speaker B: Well, I loved speaking with people. I just found out that I loved learning about other people, and I loved sharing what I learned other people and sharing my passion for animals and conservation. So I really started focusing in on that. And I was still looking in the Chicago area, and so I wasn't necessarily, at that time, zeroed in on zoos yet. I was looking at, there's a wonderful nature museum in Chicago. I was looking at the aquarium. Even museums, all those different institutions do what we were calling interpretation. So they're all trying to share their message with their visitors. And so there were all sorts of roles called, like educator or guest experience. I don't know, guest experience person. I forget what the title was. But, you know, in their guest experience department, um, so usually they're educators. So I was. I was looking at all those, and I found another fellowship, which, you know, that might happen for a while. You might just be doing, you know, serial fellowships for a couple years, which is okay, you learn a ton. But I did another fellowship, and then that was at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. So I actually. Here's some great advice I have. I actually was accepted to two different zoos. Chicago's very lucky to have these two great zoos in close proximity. So one was Brookfield Zoo. You may have heard it's much bigger than Lincoln Park Zoo. So often people have heard of that one and then Lincoln Park Zoo. And I had to make a decision which of these jobs I wanted to take. Now, I had a colleague that I knew who was also accepted to both and we made two different decisions. I decided that I was going to turn down the Brookfield Zoo position before I knew that I had the Linkin Park Zoo position. So it was a risk, but I really wanted the Linkin park suit one, so I turned it down and luckily I got the Linkin park suit one. But a colleague I knew had taken had waited to see if she would get the Lincoln Parks Zoo one and then rescinded her offer from Brookfield. And I heard later that the supervisor was put in a bind by that rescinded offer and really appreciated that I had said no so that she had time to find someone else. So I just strongly encourage you to consider the, especially in a field like this where it's very, very small community and everybody knows everyone, to really consider how it might look or how the supervisor might feel to have you reject an offer when you're kind of weighing a bunch of different opportunities. Because now I have a really good relationship with that person and I encountered her further along in my career. So I suppose this is the don't burn bridges kind of idea of make sure you have positive interactions, if you can, with members of your community because you never know when you might encounter them again. So just a little tidbit of something that happened to me that I think is good to keep in the back of your mind. [00:36:13] Speaker A: Definitely. And that's something that's true for just about every industry, and not just yours, but mine and every other one that you can think of. So, Jess, looking at your resume that you shared, you have experiences at a couple of different zoos in different parts of the country. Can you explain or paint a picture for us, if you will, what it's like working at the zoo? Now, I've learned there's no such thing as an average or typical day in most jobs. But give us some ideas of what some normalish days would be like and the differences and the similarities between the different zoos that you've worked at. [00:36:49] Speaker B: Sure, it's funny you say that because, of course, the first thing I was going to say is there is never a typical day at a zoo, but I'll do my best. So zoo days start very early, so the animals wake up early and need to be fed early. So I would say the toughest job at zoos goes to those zookeepers. I have so much respect and so much admiration for zookeepers. If you ever visit a zoo, please thank a zookeeper if you see them. They work very, very hard, and they are in first thing in the morning, usually 7630, to prep all the food. These animals eat better than I ever will. They get the best of the best of their food, and it's freshly prepared every day. And so the keepers come in, they prepare the food. Animals often get enrichment. So if you have any sort of animal or pet at home, you are probably providing enrichment for your animals in terms of just toys and treats and fun things you do with them. So we do all those same things with the animals at the zoo. They get new novel things every day to keep their minds active and keep encouraging natural behaviors like they would in the wild. And then the other members of the zoo start coming in. So my role is almost always typically in education and volunteer departments. Those departments are usually together. Some zoos are a little different. Sometimes they can be separate, but oftentimes education and volunteers are very, very closely knit, which makes a lot of sense. We're usually employing volunteer, asking volunteers to come in and help us with educational opportunities. So I would usually get in pretty early as well, because that's when our programs start. We start programs right when the zoo opens and we are out there interacting with visitors. So zoos have, I would say, a little bit of a generalization, but three major goals. So zoos are really looking to provide top notch care for their animals. They are looking to further conservation efforts. So do their own conservation projects and contribute to conservation efforts around the world and have an amazing visitor experience. So zoos would not be zoos without their visitors, without people who go see them and support the zoo. So a really big part of my job is making the visitor experience excellent and providing opportunities for them to learn about these conservation efforts, learn about the animals and want to keep coming back, or maybe even become members and continue supporting the zoo and support conservation on their own time. So the zoos I've worked at are all similar in that regard, but are also very different. Every zoo has their own culture. If you've probably noticed visiting other, you know, if you visited more than one zoo out there, you've probably seen there's different animals. There's different focuses. Some animals are only north american zoo animals, which is really cool. In Hershey, Pennsylvania, there's zoo America, which focuses on north american animals. Some zoos have animals from specific areas of the world or all over the world, and they all have their own special flavor and culture. So I actually make it a point whenever I visit a new city to go check out their zoo, because it does. It tells me a lot about the city and kind of helps me understand that area. And it's also just really fun. [00:40:45] Speaker A: How many zoos have you been to? Do you have a count? [00:40:48] Speaker B: Oh, gosh, I don't have a count. I should start keeping count. Wow. It's probably been. So there's now, I think, the latest count I saw, there's 230 accredited zoos in the country. I don't know if I've scratched the surface. Maybe I've. Maybe I've done, like, 25. [00:41:11] Speaker A: That is still more than probably anybody watching or listening to this today. So that's. That's wild. Pun intended. So I guess kind of as a follow up to that question after my very hard hitting statistical count question. So I'm guessing that, like, that kind of education piece can cover the signage, right. Things like that, where you see the fun facts about, you know, explaining the animal with the pictures or, you know, oh, at 10:00 we've got the birds show with the parrots and the owls and different things. And, you know, even at Disney, you've got the costumed stuff people like you had. And I did. Meant to ask, did you give out, like, soda cap medals? Was that your. What you gave out? Please tell me that's what you gave out. [00:42:01] Speaker B: No, unfortunately, we did not. You could buy that was a pin. If anyone's familiar with pin trading at Disney World, that is a very popular pin, the soda cap pin. But no, we gave out stickers. [00:42:15] Speaker A: Gotcha. So am I right, though, in, like, the shows and the signage, is that kind of what your area was typically focused on? [00:42:24] Speaker B: Yes. Yes. So I. The specific things that I did at the different zoos was a little different and covered each one of those things. So, for example, at Lincoln Park Zoo, that was my first job in the zoos. I was really focused on, as you called it, the shows. So we called them programs and demonstrations. And I was the one on the microphone, you know, in front of the 300 people in the amphitheater, watching the seals go through training and feeding. And so what we really focused on and kind of what this field of interpretation now is trying to focus on in zoos is the why we do everything that we do in zoos. So it's not necessarily just a show for entertainment. We do want people to be entertained. It's very important aspect of the program to have fun. But equally important is understanding the why. So we would really focus on this presentation you're seeing is so that the seals get a healthy, nutritious diet, they get all the food that they need, but then they also are learning these amazing behaviors that help us care for them. So we're not just teaching them to jump through a hoop or balance a ball on their nose. They're actually learning how to open their mouth so the keepers can brush their teeth or present their flipper so that we can trim their nails. Yes, seals do have nails that need trimmed, so all of the behaviors you're seeing have a purpose. Zoos have come a very, very long way in the last 50 to 100 years, and so they used to be much more of a place for. It was just entertainment. Like, we're really just. We want to come and see the spectacle of animals we've never seen before. Now, I really believe accredited zoos are a place where conservation is happening and animals are very well taken care of, and they are helping connect people to other areas of the world they may never see and helping them understand how they can contribute to conservation. So then, so I was talking about demos, but then I also did signage, like you're talking about. So what's really fun is that my role gets to work very closely with other departments at the zoos, and that usually means in terms of signage, communication department. So communication department might have graphic designers and other people who are helping to actually build the sign and make it look really beautiful, but my role is working on the text and what are the words that should be on the sign to really help make that connection? Always about the connection. How can people relate to the animals and not just learn about it? So it was really fun to work closely with those graphic designers to make things pretty, and then I would help provide the messaging that goes onto the signs. [00:45:51] Speaker A: So kind of following up that last part, because there's a lot to unpack, and I have some follow up questions, but that last part there, like, your role was really cross disciplinary, cross functional, collaborative. Pick your word that you want here. So can you explain how all that fit into the bigger picture for the zoo and most importantly for scholars watching or listening? How can they take what they've learned from you right now and apply it to any organization here in the the 21st century that really requires those collaboration and teamwork skills? [00:46:26] Speaker B: Yeah, well, zoos are typically very small communities, very tight knit communities. So a lot of these zoos don't. They were not giant organizations that have a lot of staff. And so there is oftentimes a requirement to kind of stretch your purview and help across the organization to do a variety of different things. Like, I would still help with special events, for example. So, you know, the special events department would host a adults night out at the zoo, you know, 21 plus really fun. You might have attended one at a zoo near you, and they would call upon other, other people in other departments to come and help. So I would do an educational table at the event and things like that. So I think it's a really valuable opportunity to learn about the other aspects of your organization. And it's important to know all the different things that are happening in your organization. So I think that makes you a better employee yourself. I wouldn't be able to share the message of the zoo accurately if I didn't fully understand what my colleagues were doing and what the keepers were doing day to day to care for the animals and what the conservationists were doing out in the field to actually study the local wildlife. So I usually. I recommend and I usually try and make an effort to. To get to know other departments, see what other departments are doing. Not only does it make your experience at an organization more positive, you'll actually make some friends and, you know, learn new things about other people, but it'll just make you a better employee because you'll have a better understanding of how your organization operates. [00:48:28] Speaker A: And that definitely applies for every industry. You know, if you're a doctor, get to know what the nurses do, the radio, radiology techs, the orderlies, everybody, you know, the billing people. So fill in your industry there. I think that's really, really good advice, Jess. Now, when I looked at your resume, something that really, I guess, personally resonated was a lot of your recent roles, and you kind of alluded to this, were focused on volunteer programs and volunteers for the zoo. And that's a big part of my role here at the Honors college, is our alumni volunteers. So how do you approach working with volunteers opposed to paid employees, and maybe frame it in a way that our scholars can take from the volunteer angle for either their student organizations or hopefully when they volunteer with us in the honors college or other community organizations as alumni? [00:49:18] Speaker B: Sure. So I love volunteers. Oh, my gosh, they're just amazing people. I mean, these are people who are donating what I think is the most precious resource in the world, which is time to something that they presumably care about in some way. And they come from all walks of life, usually, right. They're coming in for all different reasons to volunteer. So it's just another opportunity to meet new people and learn about people and why they're there and why they want to volunteer. So volunteers are very, very special to zoos. Zoos don't necessarily receive, you know, endless supply of funding. So it is usually essential for a zoo to operate using volunteers in some capacity. So it's very important for us to foster that volunteer community. I felt very strongly that, you know, volunteers should feel a part of the organization and like and know that they are contributing in some meaningful way. And we always considered volunteers. I always consider volunteers an audience as well. So they're one of my audiences. I have visitors that I interact with. I have my colleagues I interact with, but I also have my volunteers, and they're an audience that's also learning about the animals, learning about the organization, and then they may become employees in the future, or they become advocates for your company in the future or something like that. So I think it's always really important to treat volunteers with respect and make sure that they feel connected to the organization because you never know how they might interact with the organization in the future. So I loved working with them, and I hope that I will volunteer at some point myself in the future. And if anyone out there listening is interested or has been thinking about volunteering, I am going to make a plug for volunteering at a zoo. So there's many different ways you can volunteer at a zoo. Most zoos are looking for just one time volunteers to volunteer at a special event. Or some zoos even have zookeeping volunteer positions. Or the education department. So much fun working in an education department as a volunteer. Often you'll get to work closely with some program animals and you'll get to know the keepers really well. So highly recommend looking into that for a volunteer opportunity. [00:51:59] Speaker A: And if you live in an area where there may not be a zoo, obviously check out your local animal shelter. They're always in need to, and especially if you're not in a place to necessarily adopt a dog or a cat or another animal. Still great way to get your fix of the little, little floofs. So definitely recommend that. And if you have other interests like art or helping the underserved, so many great nonprofits out there, wherever you end up as an alob to get involved with, plus many right here in state college or near your other commonwealth campus as a Penn State student. So be sure to do what Jess said and volunteer. Now, Jess, like two questions back. We talked about kind of the evolution of the zoo from, from this entertainment to education. And think back to like any movie set in like the turn of the century like the 19 hundreds. Dumbo kind of comes to mind. Right. And there's. So there's a lot of misconceptions even today that, like, that's all the zoo is. But you elaborated, it's an educational place for the most part. As long as it's accredited, of course. So what do you see the role of the zoo in the modern world, when we also have things like nature documentaries, the Internet, that provide access to animals in some form or fashion in a way that only the zoo or the circus back in the day was the only way to learn about or encounter something like a lion or a polar bear or fill in the blank, other exotic wildlife animal. [00:53:23] Speaker B: This is an excellent question. Thank you. There are so many ways to access animals now, which is amazing. I actually am. I swear this isn't a plug for Disney, but there are some really great documentaries on Disney right now that I've been watching, just because I've been watching them myself. There's one really cool one about insects that was filmed at a tiny microscopic level, so you can see the insects from their perspective, which is incredible. There's some amazing documentaries about african wildlife, the oceans, all sorts of amazing things. But I truly think there is no substitute for seeing some of these animals up close and in person. Right. And many people will never get to see them in the wild. So if you can, that's amazing. And I'm so lucky that I was able to see some of these in East Africa, but often these places are difficult to access. So zoos are not only a place to see these animals living, breathing right in front of you, but they're also a community. So something I love about my local zoo, which is now I'm in Boston, and my local zoo is now the stone zoo. And whenever I visit, I see that there are so many parents and children, and it's really, really nice to see that parents are coming and taking their families, caregivers are taking their families, and it's. It's a fun place to be with your family and friends. There's usually these 21 plus events that I spoke about earlier. So not just for kids, there are many great ways to interact with the zoo or have fun at a zoo as adults. I see zoos now bringing in a lot of craft breweries and local distilleries and amazing local businesses so that you can communicate or interact with your community a little bit more. So I really love that I'm seeing zoos becoming more of a community center where you can get to know your community a little bit more now, we've. [00:55:49] Speaker A: Talked a lot about working at the zoo, the role of the zoo, but Jess, how do you actually go about getting a job at the zoo? This is not one of the questions I wrote down I forgot to, but pretty straightforward. Is there anything unique in the job search job interview process for working in a zoo setting? And I think you had an interesting piece about, particularly one of your past roles at the DC Zoo. The name escapes me, I'm sorry. And how this small network can really be advantageous if you engage with it correctly. [00:56:25] Speaker B: Yes, absolutely. So I always recommend trying to find as many networking opportunities as you can. So I'm a really big fan of just informational interviews. So just reach out to someone who is in the career you're interested in or is doing something similar to the career you're interested in. That's why this podcast is amazing, because hopefully there is someone here on this podcast that has something similar to what you're interested in. And reach out. I'm definitely going to share my email and I believe others have shared theirs as well. Reach out and say, hey, I'm really interested in what you're doing. I would love to just speak with you for 30 minutes and learn a little bit more. You never know what might come of it. Often it's just maybe making a new friend and learning a little bit more about the industry. But sometimes it can lead to a job or an opportunity you weren't expecting. So I had that happen with me. I was moving to, so we moved from Chicago to Washington, DC, and through my Disney network, through people I had worked with at Animal Kingdom, I knew there was another person who had done my same job at Animal Kingdom who was now living in DC. So I had no friends there. I really didn't know anyone. So I thought, hey, I'll reach out. I'll reach out on Facebook. Because I didn't have her contact information and said, hey, I just moved here. I would just love to get coffee. And so we met up and got coffee and she works at the Smithsonian National Zoo. And so we chatted. I got to hear all about her job. It sounded really, really cool. And she said, hey, it turns out we have an opening right now. You should apply. So I might not have considered it, you know, it's like the national Zoo. Oh, my gosh, it's amazing. I probably would have thought, man, I could never get that. But I was like, you know what? She told me about it. Let's try it. So I applied and went through the interview process and I ended up working there for three years. So you never know what could happen just by reaching out and trying to make new connections with people. So highly recommend that if you're moving to a new area or even if you're just looking to change jobs or find something new, reach out and see. [00:58:57] Speaker A: What you can learn and we'll get your how to get in touch with you at the end of the chat. So don't worry, we'll make sure we have that down in the description or in the show notes if you're listening to the audio version. And I think that's really, really good advice. And make sure you're connecting with the Penn State network generally. But specifically, you've got the Schreier network, any contacts you make in internships or summer jobs, things like that, and your home, college or campus, too. So you've got lots of sub networks within the Penn State network to plug into as well. So great, great advice, Jess. Now, at the time we're recording this, this is March 2024. You're currently out of the workforce. So what is the story behind that and what advice do you have for scholars who are in a similar position? Maybe they just graduated, they haven't locked up a job yet. Maybe it's by choice. They need a gap year, elder care, personal health, something like that. Or through something. It wasn't their choice. Like a layoff. [00:59:53] Speaker B: Yeah. So I am currently not working at the moment. I stopped working at the Franklin park and Stone zoo, which is called Zoo New England, here in Boston, back in August of 2023. And that was because I had my son, James. He is now 17 months old, and I decided I was going to spend some time to stay home with him, which I feel very, very grateful that I'm able to do. And he is now my new audience. So my husband keeps reminding me that he cannot just know about animals, so I have to teach him other things. So, Peter, if you ever listen to this, I promise I will teach him other things than just animals. But he does know a lot of animal sounds, so I'm very, very proud of that. So, yeah, I decided I want to take some time to focus on him for a little bit, but I hope to stay connected to the community and plan to stay connected to the community. I mentioned volunteering myself a little bit ago, and I do expect and hope that I can get back to the zoo world and the interpretation world through volunteering potentially in the future. And maybe when kids are a little bit older, I can look into finding a part time job or actually working again. But for all those, like you said, for all those out there who maybe are between jobs or considering taking a break, like I kind of said at the beginning, you know, don't be afraid to change your mind. It's terrifying to, you know, maybe the job you're in right now is not working out for you and you're not as happy as you were before, or you think you'd be happier doing something else. It can be really, really scary. But sometimes that's the jump you need to take. And so, of course, you know, do some research and see what's out there and what opportunities are available for you. In the meantime, if you're looking for what to do while you're looking for a new job, volunteering. We've been plugging a lot in this because you never know what could lead to. Volunteering often leads to a job. Oftentimes, jobs open up quickly. And I know in the zoo community, we've definitely pulled from our volunteer corps for open jobs because we know them and we know what they can do, and we know that they're people we want to spend time with and be co workers with. So that can be a great opportunity. And I also stay involved in professional organizations, so I think most careers out there have some sort of professional body. And so for my field, it's called the National association for Interpretation. There's also, I had mentioned the association of Zoos and Aquariums. That's the body that accredits zoos, or one of them. I will say there's another one as well, called Zoological association of America. But these organizations often also have opportunities where I've served in the past as, like, what's called a state representative. So I was responsible for connecting my state's membership with the leaders. And also, even, like, conferences, I would go to yearly conferences. I would present at conferences, volunteer to present work that I had done. So these are all ways you can continue to stay involved, even if you're between jobs or looking for something new. So you can just keep your finger on the pulse, as they say, and stay connected. [01:03:42] Speaker A: I can think of few jobs that would be better suited to prepare you for parenting. Thank yours. Between the interpretation and dealing with animals, there's no true preparation for parenting. But I think that might be the next best thing is doing what you've done for career Jess. So I think you have a leg up on the rest of us. Now, before we kind of wrap up our last couple questions here. You know, obviously, being a parent is full time job. You've had full time jobs working at the zoo. How do you and your family find balance? What are, you know, what is somebody who, you work at the zoo? So what do you do for fun? Because that might be what the rest of us do is go to go to the zoo or similar kind of community places. [01:04:24] Speaker B: Sure. Well, I will say my family and friends make fun of me because I really do truly enjoy going to zoos. And so everyone, everyone's always saying I would never go to my place of work on a day off, but I'm like, oh, it's Saturday, let's go see the zoo. But besides that, I also really love to spend time outdoors with my family. So being outside, I feel like it's just so therapeutic just being out in the sun, out in the fresh air. So highly recommend, especially if you have a desk job or where you're sitting at your desk a lot, or you're indoors a lot, take your lunches outside, go for a walk. It can do wonders, actually. Behind me, if you're watching the podcast, behind me is a mural of mountains that I painted because my family loves to ski. So this is big sky, Montana behind me, our favorite place to ski. We do still dance occasionally. It's a little bit harder to find time these days with James, but my son and I have dance parties ourselves, so. Yeah, and I really enjoy. My favorite way to unwind at night is just to read books or watch a movie. So we try and have quiet time when we can. As a parent, if any parents out there will understand, just take it when you can. [01:05:48] Speaker A: And if you're not one yet and you maybe someday, well, you'll understand at that point. And you went from doing the waltz and the tango and other things that you might have done in the white building to probably dancing to baby shark. So. [01:06:02] Speaker B: Yes. Yep. And a lot of Disney songs, which probably won't be surprising. [01:06:07] Speaker A: Nope, not at all. Now, Jess, what kinds of questions should, or, you know, we talked about a lot of different things today. What should I have asked? But because I'm not an expert on these things, you are. Did I not think to ask, or another way you could phrase this is like, what kind of questions have you gotten from interns in the past? Maybe those who've reported to you like junior employees or volunteers, your family and friends, or maybe even, I know he's a little bit young, but, you know, what kind of questions do you get from your son about the zoo? [01:06:36] Speaker B: Oh gosh. I think the most common question I get is just how do you care for the animals. And just kind of like your first question of, like, what's a day in the life? Like, so. And I think this also goes back to kind of the misconceptions, I guess I'd say, that people have about zoos. I do sometimes get questions of, like, how could you work in a zoo? I thought you loved animals. And I, I do like to say that I wish zoos weren't a necessity. I sometimes, you know, I wish I, there wasn't a zoo I needed to work at. You know, like, in a perfect world, all of these animals would live peacefully and in a healthy environment where they're native, too. But unfortunately, that's not possible now in a lot of places. And almost all animals that you see in zoos were likely born in zoos. It's very uncommon now for any animals to be taken from the wild unless there is a safety reason, for example, they were injured or a really big issue with animals right now is wildlife trafficking. So animals illegally taken from the wild, and then zoos step in to provide them home when they can't be returned to the wild. So I think, you know, I wish zoos weren't necessary, but they're still very important, and they're important for, for sharing these messages and helping people learn, but also caring for these animals who don't have anywhere else to live. So I do hope that people think more about zoos and not just zoos, like you mentioned. I'm so glad you mentioned the humane society and shelters and other organizations that are working for animals. Even your local parks and any museums, even sometimes have, like, live animal collections or nature museums. These are all doing great work to further the mission of saving wild places and wild things. So take a look at what's in your community and consider visiting and supporting them. [01:09:05] Speaker A: Absolutely. And I brought that up only because yours truly has adopted three different rescue dogs. So that's a special thing for me, making sure, you know, adopt, don't chop. I will proselytize there for a second. Now, Jess, we're going to go into kind of the tail end of our chat today, and this is your chance to brag a little bit. What would you say is your biggest success to date? [01:09:29] Speaker B: Oh, goodness. Well, I'm very proud of legacies I feel I've left behind at some of these institutions. So there are some signs and graphics and physical print things that are up at these zoos that I created. So I'm really excited to share those with my family and friends. And it's fun that hopefully they'll stay there for a few years to come. And I love to go visit. The local zoo has several up and I love to just see other visitors interacting with them and reading them. So that's a fun, lasting impact that I hope I'll continue to have on visitors even though I'm no longer there. And then there are several conversations with visitors that kind of stick out in my mind where, similar to what we were just talking about, there was a visitor in Chicago who came up to me and was like, like, I don't like zoos. How do you work here? And so I had a conversation with them. And of course, one conversation is, I never expected to change someone's mind, but they did walk away saying, I'm going to do more research and I'm going to look into this. Thank you for talking to me. So I considered that a huge success and I was very proud of that. And that happened years and years ago. And so, you know, every, every conversation you have with someone matters and you never know what they'll take from it. So I'm very proud of those. [01:11:04] Speaker A: Well, hopefully we can add this podcast episode to that list of conversations and legacy pieces and hopefully you can send us some photos. Maybe we can drop them in the video version and throw them up while you're talking about them. Back a minute ago. Now, Jess, on the other side of that equation, though, what would you say is the biggest transformational learning moment or mistake you've made in your career and what you learned from that experience? [01:11:28] Speaker B: Yeah, I think I kind of spoke with this very, very early on at the beginning, but I would say my biggest learning was when I didn't get into grad school. That was, that was my first really big failure. And believe me, there's many failures since then. But I, you know, I think that that was the first really big one. And I'm really grateful for it because it helped me realize that this will happen and things will not necessarily go the way that you want them to go always. But I kept moving forward and looking for new things I wanted to do and new things I was excited about. And it led me to a really great place. So, yeah, failures are really scary, but, but they will happen. [01:12:22] Speaker A: And most times, things do work out. It just takes a minute or maybe some, maybe a year, years to prove what the plan was. But it usually works out as long as you put in the work, right? [01:12:34] Speaker B: Yes. [01:12:35] Speaker A: So, Jess, something we haven't talked about too much. How do you approach mentorship, both as a mentor to others and as a mentee from others. And how do you suggest that students approach those opportunities? [01:12:50] Speaker B: Well, I think, you know, mentorship is a really a continuing conversation, I'd say. I have, you know, one mentor that I've had for years now who, you know, I just check in with as often as I can, which sometimes is once a month or once every other month. You know, sometimes we go a while without checking in, but I really try to make sure, you know, we never lose connection. So I think, you know, if you find someone who you trust and who has a similar path to you or just something, whatever it is in common to you that you'd like to learn from, you know, often I find my mentor mentee relationships, we learn from each other, and you'll continue to grow. So, you know, she continued to grow through her career. I continued to grow. Sometimes we diverged. Sometimes we came back together, but through that, we were able to learn more from each other. So we've talked a ton about connection so far in this hour or however long it's been. So, you know, I think just reaching out and trying to maintain those mentor mentee relationships, if you can, through. Even if it's just your employment. Right. If you're just with an organization for a few years or even less, just try and set up regular calls, say, hey, let's. Let's just chat once a week. Let's chat at this time, once a month, so you can really stay connected and benefit from, both of you benefit from that relationship with each other. [01:14:30] Speaker A: Well, speaking of those mentors, and you dropped some faculty names early in our conversation. Are there any professors or friends or perhaps a husband from your scholar days that you would like to give a shout out to? [01:14:43] Speaker B: Yeah, I mean, of course, my husband, Peter, got me through many an organic chemistry class that did not necessarily go well. Yeah, my fellow scholars. I mean, your fellow scholars know what you're going through and are in the same boat, you know, stressing about the same classes. So lean on each other and help each other out. I did a lot of study groups with my friends, so definitely lean on them when you can. I actually had some really great. I worked most closely with some of the graduate assistants in the labs, and so, like, holly Holt, for example, was one who I worked with in the B lab and learned so much from. And, yeah, of course, my thesis advisor, doctor Diefenbach, I would not have been able to get through all the crazy statistics without his guidance and piles of books that he lent me. So, yeah, I mean, that. And that's why I loved Penn State so much. It was such a community and it's such a network. And even now, if you're looking, you kind of mentioned this earlier, but if you have nowhere, you have no idea where to look for a mentor or someone to talk to. Try first your Penn State community, because it's massive and there's someone out there who is in the same boat as you. So, yeah, just shout out to Penn State and Schreier in general. [01:16:16] Speaker A: Well, I will certainly ditto that. And Jess, I can't believe I didn't put two and two together here earlier, giving your grad year and ballroom dance. But do you know Rebecca alt, by any chance? [01:16:26] Speaker B: I do. [01:16:29] Speaker A: Becca is one of my best friends. She's big into ballroom dance. So I imagine that you probably had some overlap with that activity. [01:16:38] Speaker B: We did overlap, yes. That's so funny. Usually that never works. Like, usually people are like, oh, do you know this person at Penn State? I'm like, okay, you can try, but probably not. But that one worked. [01:16:51] Speaker A: That's. That is awesome. So we'll give a shout out to a fellow ballroom dancer, Becca. And you talked about organic chemistry. I struggled with ballroom dance. That was. That was the one I struggled with. I failed two tests in my life, and one was the ballroom final, so you can shame me for that. [01:17:09] Speaker B: That's okay. [01:17:10] Speaker A: I still. I still graduated with honors. That's what matters. Now, as we're wrapping up our time, do you have a final piece of advice that you wanted to leave for scholars to make the most of their time here at Penn State and in the Shrier honors college? [01:17:24] Speaker B: I mean, besides everything we've already talked about, I would say just join a club. Just find something at Penn State that you're interested in and try it, even if it's something you've never done before. I do. The ballroom dance club was really huge for just my sanity and doing something fun. So join a club. Your academics are important, and all your work at Shire is very important, but do something fun, it'll be great. [01:17:55] Speaker A: And I would extend that even out into once you graduate in the community, wherever life takes you. Now, going back to earlier in our conversation, you mentioned about connecting with you afterwards, and that's the exact whole entire point of this podcast, is to learn about you. This is an informational interview, basically, and teeing up our scholars to connect with you afterwards. So what is the best way to do that? [01:18:19] Speaker B: So, unfortunately, I don't check LinkedIn very often, so don't try LinkedIn. You'll be able to find me but I just, I, I might not answer. So I highly recommend email. I'm very responsive on email. Hopefully. I think Sean will leave my email in the comments and all the other resources, but I will say it here just in case it is jlgreensmith twomail.com. So jlgreensmith two mail.com. That's a great way to reach me. And I would say put Tryr in the subject line so that way I don't miss it. [01:19:00] Speaker A: Excellent. You heard how to get a hold of Jess. And even though she doesn't use LinkedIn a lot, you should still make sure you follow the shrier honors college at Penn State on LinkedIn to stay up to date with everything. And before I get to the hardest hitting question of our interview, Jess, reminder, you should like and subscribe. Subscribe or follow whatever the correct verb is. Wherever you're following us, make sure you go and do that before the end of this video because if you're still with us, we know you liked it. Now, the hardest question of the day, if you were a flavor of Berkey creamery ice cream from your home college of the College of Agricultural Sciences, which would you be? And most importantly as a scholar alumni, Jess, why would you be that flavor? [01:19:43] Speaker B: Sean did ask me this question ahead of time and I just have to say it was kind of torturing to ask me ahead of time because now I'm scrolling the website and all I want to do is order Penn State creamery ice cream. So thank you for that. [01:19:58] Speaker A: I'm still saying they should sponsor this. I've said it before. So if anybody knows anybody there, happy to talk. [01:20:05] Speaker B: Yeah, that, that's a really good idea. Gosh, I miss the creamery ice cream. Well, I just have to say my favorite flavor to eat myself is the cookie dough. Ooh, good choice, right? Because it's the only place I've ever found that has cookie dough flavored ice cream. With cookie dough bits. That means everything. It's not just vanilla ice cream. So that's a deep analysis right there. [01:20:31] Speaker A: I never thought of that. That's why it's so good. I didn't mind blowing extra cookie dough. [01:20:37] Speaker B: Right. But I guess to answer your question, I probably would be like arboretum breeze, which is also a really good flavor that I enjoy. Ooh, deep cut. Yeah. I mean, partly because I couldn't help make the association of like arboretum and like, you know, I love the arboretum. It's a beautiful natural space to definitely go hang out there. [01:21:00] Speaker A: Amen. [01:21:01] Speaker B: Yeah. But I guess also there's kind of a lot going on. Arboretum breeze, there's like mint ice cream and chocolate chips and raspberry, but somehow it all works together and it all works into an amazing flavor. So I guess like my career has been all over the place and I never know where it was going to take me, but it all, it worked out. Some not in the way I expected, but it worked out beautifully. Just like an arboretum breeze. [01:21:31] Speaker A: That was a stellar answer, Jess. Thank you. And yes, shameless plug for our friends at the arboretum. It is truly one of the gems here at University park, so especially in the spring. Excellent. [01:21:45] Speaker B: Beautiful. [01:21:46] Speaker A: Well, thank you, Jess, for joining us and sharing your insights. I had a great time discussing all things zoos and interpretation with you today before I let you have the last word for scholars again, if you're watching the video version, be sure to subscribe. Like the video, leave us a comment down below. If you're engaging with the audio version on something like Apple Podcasts or Spotify, be sure to follow us on whatever that podcast app that you're using is and leave us a rating. And with that, Jess, I'm going to let you have the floor for the last word. [01:22:14] Speaker B: Great. Well, thank you, Sean. It was a pleasure to be here. And to all the potential scholars, current scholars, past scholars out there, thank you for listening. And I hope you get something from this chat and go out and volunteer or visit your local zoo or just reach out to me for a chat. So I'd love to talk to you. So thanks, Sean.

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