University of Minnesota Alumni Association


Editor's Note

Animal Magnetism

Photo Credit: Scott Streble

I’VE ALWAYS BEEN FASCINATED by the idea that a seemingly random thing that catches our fancy as a child can connect in an almost straight line to our eventual career.

For instance, as a kid, did you have a windowsill in your bedroom piled full of really, really cool rocks? Maybe today you’re a geologist.

Or did you spend your time in elementary school doodling or daydreaming when your teachers were convinced you should have been doing something more “productive”? Today you might be a full-time artist or filmmaker or work in some other creative field.

Or then again, were you the kid constantly saying, “Hey, wait a minute.
That’s not fair!”

Today maybe you’re a lawyer.

My point is that we don’t know exactly what activities in our youth bend the twig that shapes the tree. It’s only in retrospect that we can reflect on what influenced us, guided us, and molded us into the adults we became.

In this issue, we talk with several alumni who turned a childhood attachment to and passion for animals into satisfying careers.

Emily Roberts (“Reptile Rep,” pg. 20) shared an anecdote that made me chuckle: Today she works as an educator and influential YouTube host who teaches people about reptiles, but as a kid, she was constantly distracted with catching toads in the outfield when she should have been playing softball. It’s probably not a stretch to trace a line from that girl to a student who earned a degree in fisheries, wildlife, and conservation biology. And as an adult, she’s made it her mission to help us see the beautiful in creatures that sometimes make us squirm.

Or consider Myah Walker (“The Chicken and the Egg," pg. 22), who earned a degree in poultry sciences at the University. She made her career first in the field of shell egg production and now works as a member of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. (She shared that as a child, she surreptitiously captured baby bunnies and hid them in her house, much to her parents’ dismay and surprise.)

And then there’s Olivia LeDee (“Wild Times,” pg. 26), the regional administrator of the Midwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, housed at the U of M. Her Louisiana childhood featured lots of pets, lots of outdoor time, and a deep appreciation for nature. Today she and her colleagues are working to find ways to help native animals survive in a world where climate change threatens their existence.

That’s one of the intrinsic beauties of a University education—the ability to hone and polish almost any passion into a vocation that provides a lifetime of satisfaction.

If you liked this story, Minnesota Alumni magazine publishes four times a year highlighting U of M alumni and University activities. Early access to stories and a print subscription are benefits of being an Alumni Association member. Join here to receive a printed copy at home.

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