By John Robert Morton, Student and Affairs Liaison, and Emilie Luscomb, APU Graduate
Caring for animals, especially pets, is important to a lot of people, because that care gives their lives meaning and purpose. This way of thinking is especially true for alumna Emilie Luscomb, who graduated with her bachelor’s degree in environmental science from American Public University (APU) in 2022.
Emilie works for the Exotic Vet Care Clinic in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. She helps to manage the clinic’s day-to-day operations and ensures the wellness and safety of all the pets and exotic animals in their care.
Developing an Appreciation of Animals and Nature
Emilie is a nature enthusiast and loves to be outside. She says, “I’ve always been that way!”
Throughout her life, she has enjoyed being active – Emilie was on the swimming and diving team in high school – and being outdoors as much as possible. With her family, she went camping and traveled across the U.S. Her love of the outdoors allowed Emilie to appreciate different animals nationwide.
Emilie lives in South Carolina with her fiancé and a large group of different pets. She notes, “We have quite a lot of animals at our house, including five Labrador retrievers and three cats. We also have a Senegal parrot and a flock of birds that includes chickens, quails, ducks, and turkeys.”
Choosing an Educational Path
Like many college students, Emilie took a roundabout path to find her calling. After high school, she had many ideas of what career she wanted but could not pinpoint which path to choose. She considered becoming a physical therapist or a pilot, but ultimately decided to pursue an associate degree in fashion design at Minneapolis Community College.
Later, Emilie decided to change her career path and pursue conservation-related work due to her love for animals. Her fiancé told her about the environmental science degree at APU, and it appealed to her.
The coursework was interesting, and the program’s structure of the program fit into her schedule. That flexibility was important to Emilie and helped with her decision to start a bachelor’s degree.
Emilie says, “I loved every minute of the environmental science program!” Emily was able to transfer eight of her previous academic credits to APU. She credits the University’s Transfer Credit Evaluation team for their assistance, so that she could obtain her bachelor’s degree more quickly.
The people she met along her academic journey also made a difference in her life. Emilie remains good friends with several of her classmates, and she notes that faculty members went out of the way to help her in her academic journey. Several instructors wrote her letters of recommendation for the master’s degree in zoology/animal biology she is currently pursuing at Miami University.
Dr. Kristen Kostelnik, Dr. Michael Stine and Dr. Anita Leinweber of the School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) were Emilie’s favorite faculty members. Emilie notes, “Dr. Stine had a lot of great knowledge around conservation biology, and he influenced me to pursue higher education in that area.”
Emilie adds, “Each of these instructors had extensive knowledge and experience and helped expand my thinking.” She credits these three instructors with making her academic experience memorable; in addition, Dr. Kostelnik and Dr. Stine both wrote letters of recommendation for Emilie.
Working with Pets and Exotic Animals
During her time at APU, Emilie used the University’s Career Services department. Her Career Coach, Taylor Sparber, had an in-depth conversation with Emilie and guided her through the exploration of different career paths. That guidance led Emily into the field of working with exotic animals.
Emilie saw that the clinic was seeking a client services representative, decided to apply and was hired. During her workday, she sees a lot of exotic animals, rabbits, and all types of birds such as raptors, parrots, and chickens. The clinic also handles small “pocket” pets like guinea pigs and gerbils, monkeys, and reptiles.
Taylor also helped Emilie to apply for an internship at the Exotic Pet Care Clinic, working with wild raptors and shorebirds. For a few months, Emilie worked with injured birds of prey and rehabilitated them for release back into their natural habitat. Emilie also met the main veterinarian for the birds of prey center, who leads the surgeries on birds.
Emilie’s favorite part of the job is treating the animals. She says, “I love that I do not have to sit up front all day and get to help with treatments.”
Reflecting on Her Educational Journey
Education is something Emilie values, and she says earning a bachelor’s degree is her biggest accomplishment. She observes, “I am very proud of how far I have come in my educational career; I never thought I would go back to school after earning my associate degree. My follow-up greatest accomplishment would be my acceptance into the master’s program at Miami University.”
At Miami University, Emilie is in the “Advanced Inquiry Program,” which is part of Project Dragonfly. This program allows Emilie to do her fieldwork at a zoo; Project Dragonfly partners with 10 AZA-accredited zoos across the country. She chose to go to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens since it was closer to her home state.
Advice to Other Students
Emilie advises, “It is never too late to get out of a job or situation you do not like. It might seem scary sometimes not knowing what’s coming ahead, but it is all worth it. Who knows, maybe after my master’s program, I may go for a Ph.D.!”
She adds, “Don’t worry about what other people think. Personality begins where comparison leaves off. Be unique. Be memorable. Be confident. Be proud.”