Skip to content
Contact USI

Field Notes

by C. L. Stambush

Alumni Drawn to Work/Volunteer with Animals

Across disciplines and degrees, some alumni have chosen to embrace animals of all sorts as part of their personal and professional lives. Whether volunteering at local animal shelters, earning certifications to employ dogs as part of their social service work, creating therapeutic devices for racehorses and more, USI alumni tell us how their lives have intersected with the animal kingdom.

Alumni Gone Wild

File Name: April (Hensley) Beard '09 • Biology • 7th Grade Math, 8th Grade Volleyball, Basketball and Track Teacher/ Jim Ned Middle School

Activity: I worked with animals for a long time as a wildlife biologist doing fieldwork and then as a wildlife rehabilitator/caretaker in sanctuaries and zoos before becoming a teacher. I credit Dr. Bandoli* with giving me the start to my [biologist] career. After graduation, I went to Puerto San Carlos for a year to intern working with blue crabs, whales, octopuses and sea turtles. I went on to intern at a big cat sanctuary in Bridgeport, Texas. I got my first full-time job at Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Kendalia, Texas, as an animal caretaker, wildlife rehabilitator and wildlife educator and trainer to incoming apprentices.

Reflection: Teaching zoo teens [programs] and apprentices wildlife rehabilitation showed me I was meant to
be a teacher.   

*James Bandoli, Professor Emeritus of Biology

File Name: Keri (Duckworth) Bush '10 • Art • Owner/Wildfox Studios; Social Media and Marketing Coordinator/Project Coyote

Activity: I'm a lifelong animal lover and I launched a small animal-centric illustration business, Wildfox Studios, after graduation. My passion for wildlife photography really picked up at this point as well, but it wasn't until I began volunteering for a wolf rescue and working for a nonprofit AZA*-accredited zoo in Colorado that my focus shifted to advocacy. Now, I feel very fortunate to be a part of the incredible team at Project Coyote, promoting coexistence between people and North America's wild carnivores. 

Reflection: My dad has always said, "Do something you love, and you'll never work a day in your life." This advice has guided me to intertwine my love for animals and art into my professional journey. Interacting with animals and telling their stories has become a central tenet of my career, which has taught me valuable lessons in compassion, responsibility and ecology.

File Name: Matthew Miller M'22 • Healthcare Administration • Pharmacy Manager/MWI Animal Health

Activity: My pharmacy team and I are responsible for providing prescription product orders from a licensed veterinarian to end users/pet owners. My education
from USI's online MBA program was helpful in obtaining my current role with MWI. I use many of the skills I developed through the program daily. I very much enjoy my current job and feel encouraged by the positive effect our work has on the health
of the animals we serve.

woman with anesthetized tigerFile Name: Laura (Draper) Gibson '13 • Biology • Associate Veterinarian/College Mall Veterinary Hospital

Activity: I have been involved in the veterinary field since I was in high school! Although I knew I wanted
to be a vet since I was a kid—it was just in my DNA—I have held lots of positions: shelter volunteer, kennel attendant, vet tech, ASPCA intern, veterinary student and now a full-fledged Doctor of Veterinary Medicine!

U. S. Army Prosthodontist working on anesthetized dogFile Name: Jacob "Jake" England '07 • Biology • Prosthodontist/United States Army

Activity: I teach residents at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. I've been deployed to Kuwait and used to work in the White House Medical Unit in Washington D.C. Occasionally I get to do dentistry on military service dogs.

National Park Service ranger on a horseFile Name: Don Daniel '73  • Communications • Ranger/Great Sand Dunes, National Park Services

Activity: My career as a mounted Ranger began riding patrol in the Grand Canyon in 1975. In 1989, I joined the Reno Police Department, and two years later myself and four other officers started the first Horse Mounted Unit in the state of Nevada. In 2010, I returned to summer jobs with the Park Service, first in Yosemite Valley (California), then Bridger Teton National Forest (Wyoming) then Yellowstone. Riding horseback in the backcountry with grizzly bears and bison puts my riding skills to the test.

man next to a horse with a white halter onFile Name: Patrick "Pat" Ziemer '73 • Communications • Founder and CEO/Magna Wave PEMF and Aura Wellness

Activity: I founded a therapy device using Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field Therapy (PEMF) technology to improve the health and wellness of racehorses, performance horses, small animals and more.  

man with a penguin biting his shoeFile Name: Kyle Godfroy '16 • Accounting and Professional Services • Senior Accountant/Denver Zoo

Activity: Being an accountant at the Zoo is a fulfilling blend of my passion for animals and accounting. 

File Name: Karla (Mathieu) Haas '82 • Social Science • Founder/Rudy Green's Doggie Cuisine

Activity: We pioneered a change in the entire pet food industry by creating the first human-grade dog food for retail. 

Alumni Animal Houses

woman driving with black and white doge wearing red shirt standing on the car consoleFile Name: Amanda (Guthrie) Klotsch '04 • Public Relations and Advertising • President and Founder/
Redemption Rescue, Inc.

Description of Activity: I help dogs and cats sitting in shelters get a second chance. I have always loved animals and became a volunteer for multiple local rescues in 2007. I wanted to start my own rescue so I shifted gears in 2015 and became a realtor so my schedule would have the flexibility to run a rescue.

Reflection: Redemption Rescue, Inc. is still going strong, [so far] helping over 1,000 dogs and cats find their forever home!

brown and white beagle licking young woman's faceFile Name: Lauren Perigo '13 M'24 • Mathematics and German Studies • Founder/Warrick Tails on Trails

Activity: I decided to create Warrick Tails on Trails, a program that partners community members with shelter dogs for combined exercise. We launched it in April 2019. Starting this program was a way to combine my passion for homeless dogs with my love for physical activity with a canine companion. 

Reflection: It is a great feeling to give these dogs some exercise, companionship, love and exposure while they wait for their forever homes. It is also a place for community members to get exercise, make friends and give back. I have created so many great friendships through this program!

File Name: Cameron Lewis '20 • English • Clinic Receptionist/Vanderburgh Humane Society

Activity: I have the privilege to meet so many new animals every single day, whether  they're ones at the shelter looking for homes or an already adopted pet coming in to be spayed or neutered.

smiling woman and her black and white dogFile Name: Dana (Titzer) Pool '12 • Management • Human Resource Business Partner/Best Friends Animal Society

Activity: We have several lifesaving centers across the United States and a 6,000-acre Sanctuary in Utah with over 1,600 rescues that include: horses, goats, pigs, dogs, cats, birds and other wildlife. Our goal is to help the country reach No-Kill by 2025.

smiling woman holding 2 puppiesFile Name: Kendall (Cummings) Paul '95 • Communications • CEO/Vanderburgh Humane Society, Inc.

Activity: I started as an Animal Care Tech, so I cleaned kennels, processed intakes, provided vaccines, completed adoptions and more. I moved into other roles, such as public relations, special events and development. In 2004, I became the Executive Director and later the CEO. While I do more administrative and development work now, I still work around animals every day. 

Alumni Pet Projects

File Name: Steve Bohleber '72 • Political Science and History • Attorney

Activity: My aspirations to be a research or wildlife biologist were redirected by the turmoil of the 1970s so I became a "citizen scientist." I have done bat research in the rainforests of Peru and the caves of Kentucky alongside the world's leading bat biologists. I have also become an active and published wildlife/nature photographer. It has helped me advocate for wildlife conservation with photographs of the beautiful animals and natural places around the world.

Reflection: My proudest connection to the animal world has been my 25-year affiliation with the world's most complete All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, which continues its quest to discover and catalogue all life forms above the bacterial level in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So far, nearly 1,100 forms of life previously unknown to science have been discovered. I am proud that one of them has been named after me because of my volunteer and financial support of the project. A tardigrade with the common name Bohleber's Waterbear (Milnesium bohleberi) has given me an "immortality" and unique connection to an animal that few can claim.

File Name: Alexander "Alex" Kessler '13 • Psychology • Case Manager/Echo Housing Corporation • Volunteer Dog Walker at the Vanderburgh Humane Society

Activity: I volunteer to walk dogs at the Vanderburgh Humane Society and enjoy going on a walk and spending some time interacting with the dogs. 

Reflection: It's something that I can look forward to after a stressful week. It brings me happiness to be able to get outside, walk around the park and get some time with the dogs. It motivates me to get out of my house and exercise while also getting pet therapy from the dogs. It's a win-win for everyone. 

File Name: Michelle (Carrier) Jones '11 M'18 • Radiologic and Imaging Sciences, Health Administration • CT Technologist/Owensboro Health Regional Hospital • Fosters dogs

Activity: As a dog foster, I usually take on medical cases. I've had dogs post-amputation, pelvic and leg fractures, severe cases of mange, mammary tumors; there is a lot of post-surgical care and medicine, and that is right up my alley. 

Reflection: Working in healthcare can take a physical and mental toll, especially these last couple of years, so playing with puppies helps. Adoption meetings are a favorite thing of mine because I love seeing the animals meet and fall in love with their new family.

File Name: Emily Patton M'20 • Business Administration • Marketing Brand Manager/Escalade Sports

Activity: I am a volunteer for several rescues and have a hobby of creating content on Instagram for dogs' accounts. [One dog], Winston, was recently diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, a very aggressive cancer, and given three months to live. I created a bucket list for him, and we have done so many local, fun things. But my biggest objective is for Winston to inspire others to give back to animals in need, as he did with me.

Reflection: Winston's Instagram account is such a creative outlet for me—it serves as a playful account where I can test out ideas or content strategies I can then bring to the social media accounts I help manage at work.

woman dressed as a snake for Halloween holding a snakeFile Name: Geneva "Gennie" Adams '06 • Theatre Arts and French Studies • Title Examiner/Near North Title Group • Volunteer Docent at Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden

Activity: I have been a Docent at the Zoo for 13 years. Teaching people about animals they would not normally get to interact with is really great and, of course, I love spending time with the animals too.

woman in purple teaching German Shepard dog to jump hurdlesFile Name: Beth (Edwards) Poppre '94 • Communications • Assistant Professor and Administrative Manager/A.T. Still University of Health Sciences • Agility Trainer/Competitor

Reflection: My passion for dog agility has helped me maintain work-life balance in my career in higher education.

File Name: Jennifer Bufkin '98 • Speech, Communications, Theatre (Teaching) • English Teacher/Owensboro Public Schools • Volunteer Rescue Center Manager and Board Member

Reflection: My communications background from USI is extremely helpful in my work with SparKy Rescue. Beyond just caring for the animals, I spend a lot of time doing public relations work, social media, communicating with potential adopters and marketing our adoptable pets. I spend many hours each week, in addition to my time teaching, to help grow our nonprofit, no-kill rescue to better the Owensboro community.

woman with wind blowing her hair holding a small dogFile Name: Tami Jaramillo Zuniga M'12 • Liberal Studies • TRIO Student Support Services Academic Counselor/University of Southern Indiana • Fostered 30 dogs

Activity: I have fostered close to 30 dogs ranging in age from newborn to 21 years old. 

Reflection: After a couple of years with a tumultuous personal life, I found sanctuary with the dogs.  They loved me when I could not. By giving back, I regained strength and confidence both personally and professionally and the dogs got a loving, safe environment. 

young woman with kittens climbing on herFile Name: Melanie Stewart '17 • Exercise Science • Personal Trainer/517 Fitness • Fosters critically sick kittens for the Vanderburgh Humane Society

Activity: I volunteer and foster for the Vanderburgh Humane Society. I mostly take young, critically sick kittens, or severely injured kittens into my foster care and get them back to health so they can be adopted! 

woman in red cap with Borzio dogFile Name: Precious "Hope" Burdette '23 • Art • Graphic Designer/GreenLight Collectibles • Shows dogs as her hobby

Activity: I began my hobby of showing dogs 11 years ago with my Golden Retriever named Dixie. [Recently], I got my first well-bred purebred this fall, a Borzoi named Sabotage. Showing dogs has introduced me to an amazing network of people and knowledge, both in and outside of dog shows. I've been able to connect and show with people in my own field of graphic design, people whose careers are in marketing, finance and even my puppy's breeder who's in a communications career. 

File Name: Jennifer (Jones) Laval '73 • Elementary Education • Retired Case Manager/Indiana Family and Children Services • Volunteer at the Vanderburgh Humane Society for 10 years

Activity: I have been a volunteer with Vanderburgh Humane Society for over 10 years. I have worn many hats in the organization.   

File Name: Norma Lawrence Unser '00 • Public Relations and Advertising • President/CCUBED LLC • Animal Shelter Volunteer

Activity: I have been supporting rescues since 2010. Out of everything I have done in my career, the most rewarding has been saving animals. 

woman taking photo of a woman with a dog along a river frontFile Name: Darla Perigo '14 M'18 • Business Administration and Communication • Communication Associate/USI's Romain College of Business • Volunteer Photographer for Warrick Tails on Trails

Activity: I am a volunteer photographer on Saturday mornings for Warrick Tails on Trails. It combines my love for animals with my hobby of photography. 

Alumni Lending a Paw

woman with three dogsFile Name: Cynthia "Cyndie" (Brashear) Kieffer M'05 • Social Work • Independent Services Coordinator/Owner and Therapist of Sit.Stay.Heal.

Activity: I completed my Master of Social Work thesis on the benefits of animal-assisted interventions when working with people diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I am a certified professional practitioner in Animal Assisted Play Therapy, serving people under 18. In 2022, I became an Instructor for the International Institute for Animal Assisted Play Therapy. The dogs also join me in my full-time job [with the Southern Illinois Case Coordination Services].

Reflection: I am grateful to be able to combine my desire to serve others alongside working with my dogs.

woman with dog reading to 2 small childrenFile Name: Jane Gilbert '01 • Speech, Communications, Theatre (Teaching) • Drama Teacher at EVSC McGary Middle school

Activity: I became aware of my dog's "gift" during her stay with my father at his assisted living complex. Her sixth sense of comforting others was obvious by then. I enrolled in a program called K-9 Angels. The dogs trained and passed a course to become certified therapy dogs serving nursing homes, hospitals, etc.

woman holding snakeFile Name: Marcy (Hoober) Crull '02 • Health Services • Executive Director/Cope Environmental Center

Activity: Our mission is to promote the sustainable use of Earth's resources through education and demonstration. Cope Environmental Center's Living Building is home to tree frogs, aquatic turtles, a sand boa and a corn snake. Our animal ambassadors help teach visitors and students about ecosystems, habitats and sustainability.

Reflection: Animals have always been a passion of mine. My family is home to 10 animals. Working at Cope has allowed me to share my passion for animals and teach others the benefits animals have on an ecosystem.

smiling woman with smiling golden retriever dog wearing a bandanaFile Name: Amy (Huebschman) Lutzel '96 • Communications and German Studies • Wellness Director/Ivy Tech Community College

Activity: I started Paws 'N Relax in 2013 where Certified Pet Therapy Animals visit campus to help students with stress and anxiety during final exam week. We were the first college in the region
to offer pet therapy.  

Related Stories