The first time I said I wanted to be a veterinarian, I was only two years old. I did not know what it meant at the time, I just knew it involved working with animals. The older I got, however, the more I realized sitting in an office day in and day out could never be enough for me. I enjoyed being outside, fishing and hiking and just exploring the natural world too much. It was not until halfway through my first year at Virginia Tech that I fully accepted my childhood dream was just that — a dream. I can distinctly remember the turning point, when I knew studying veterinary medicine for the next eight years was not what I wanted. I was on the island of San Cristobal in the Galapagos, sitting in a little room listening to a researcher talk about sea turtle mortality. He had been conducting research on turtle migration as well as traditional boat paths. He realized the two paths intersected, which was responsible for the high rates of turtle death. He then used his results to pass legislation forcing boats to change their shipping paths. He had made a difference in his community, something I have always strived to do. As soon as I came home from my study abroad in Ecuador, I switched my major to wildlife conservation. I also added a second major in environmental resources management and minors in forestry, environmental economics, and biological sciences.
Since then, I participated in a Costa Rican study abroad that focused on sustainability. In addition, I volunteered on habitat restoration projects in New Orleans and Queensland, Australia. Being a part of these projects has helped me focus my career goals and really delve into what interests me. After graduate school I would like to work in project management, primarily on projects that help to restore habitat for threatened and endangered species. I am very excited to be a part of the Leadership Institute, as I believe it will help me develop the skills necessary to excel in my future career.