"NIU helped me figure out what makes me happiest, and right now it is working with animals." —Heather Olson, LAS '12
NIU doesn't often boast about producing first-rate zookeepers, but it could. Heather Olson, LAS '12, is giving her alma mater something to brag about as she puts her NIU biology degree to work at Summerfield Zoo in Belvidere, Illinois.
Looking back, the young alumna says she's thankful for the financial support she received from the Sonya Conway Memorial Biology Scholarship while at Northern. She says that made it possible for her to accept an unpaid internship at Summerfield, giving her hands-on experience caring for animals. She routinely feeds and cares for lemurs, monkeys, and exotic animals of all sorts. She really enjoys bottle-feeding the baby reindeer.
The Path to Success
Heather says her NIU experience was amazing.
"I really enjoyed the classes I took and I felt the professors were open and provided me with great opportunities including doing research." In particular, she recalls her research with parasitoid wasps, which she explains are "itty bitty wasps…that keep fly populations down."
Besides her academic experience, Heather was involved in several student organizations and projects including the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life and the NIU Committee for the Preservation of Wildlife.
"I was able to help NIU invest in green projects including reducing and reusing materials and encouraging native plantings," she says.
Best of all, Heather says, "NIU helped me figure out what makes me happiest, and right now it is working with animals."
Currently, Heather is enjoying a paid part-time job at Summerfield and is ready to take the next step in her career as she hopes to find full-time employment working with the animals she loves.
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