F&M Stories

Success Beyond F&M: Animal Behavior Major Leads ’23 Grad to Enriching Career

The tremendous success of F&M graduates demonstrates the tangible value of an F&M degree. At F&M, we have an exemplary landing rate. Within six months after graduation, 93% of F&M’s Class of 2023 were either employed or furthering their education.

In this series, we check in with members of the Class of 2023 to learn more about their post-graduate path and how their F&M experience launched them toward success.

Sara Dollen '23

Sara Dollen ’23

Major: Animal Behavior Studies

Current role: Animal Care Technician at City Wildlife, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Washington, D.C.

Franklin & Marshall’s distinctive animal behavior program helped Sara Dollen ’23 land a job doing what she loves just weeks after graduating. 

Dollen knew she wanted to work with animals, and originally intended to pursue a doctorate in veterinary medicine after attending Franklin & Marshall. Once she began taking courses in animal behavior, however, she discovered her passion for animal enrichment.

“I chose F&M in part for the unique animal behavior degree that I felt would prepare me well for any animal-related work,” Dollen said. “I had a strong interest in veterinary medicine, but over my time at F&M, I was exposed to so many wonderful career paths.”

She is now an animal care technician at City Wildlife, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Washington, D.C.  In addition to caring for animal patients, Dollen leads educational programs for the public and helps manage the center’s social media.

What did the first six months after graduating from F&M look like?

I began looking for post-graduation jobs in the spring semester of my senior year, and thankfully, by April, I was able to secure my current job as an animal care technician at City Wildlife, a wildlife rehabilitation center that assists sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife. I took a couple weeks off after graduation to relax and catch up with friends and family, and then I began working my new job in late May. Since my onboarding, I have not only gotten to do animal care, but I began running educational programs and helping to manage the center's social media, all of which I greatly enjoy! Since graduation, I also have consistently taken pet-sitting jobs through Rover. I love this combination of work, as wildlife and domestic animals are very different to work with. While I try my best to limit interactions with and never speak to or coddle wildlife at work so that they have the best chance of survival post-release, I can get my fill of being playful and affectionate with animals through pet sitting. It’s the best of both worlds!

How did your F&M experience prepare you for where you are now?

The coursework for my animal behavior major absolutely transformed the way I think about animals, animal welfare, and conservation. From psychology classes like “Animal Behavior and Evolution of Mind & Intelligence” to earth and environment courses such as “Wildlife Conservation and Ecological Concepts and Applications,” I gained strong foundational knowledge in animal and environmental sciences. However, my hands-on experience in the vivarium was most central to my experience at F&M. Here, I was not only able to take what I learned from my classes and apply it in a professional animal-care setting, but I was able to develop strong skill sets in husbandry, enrichment, and training with a variety of species. My favorite experience was working as the enrichment team leader for the Yalie capuchin troop for two years. I use the skills I gained from this position every day in my current jobs, such as how to effectively design, implement, and continually improve enrichment that keeps animals in captivity happy and healthy as well as how to lead a team to provide high standards of animal care.

My greatest post-graduation accomplishment so far, made possible by my time in F&M's vivarium, has been designing an enrichment system for the wildlife center that has had wonderful reception by humans and wildlife patients alike! Additionally, I was able to hone my academic research skills through independent studies with animals in the vivarium, one of which investigated the impacts of dig box enrichment of leopard gecko welfare and the other investigated how artificial light (i.e. light pollution) affects wolf spider predation success rates. In my senior year at F&M, I was also able to reduce the number of classes I was taking so that I could work part time as an assistant wildlife rehabilitator at West Shore Wildlife in Dover, Pa. That job experience directly prepared me for my current position and having it on my resume undoubtedly helped me secure my job.

“The coursework for my animal behavior major absolutely transformed the way I think about animals, animal welfare, and conservation.”

— Sara Dollen ’23

How does your current path compare to what you envisioned in your first year at F&M?

I came to F&M with the intention of pursuing a doctorate in veterinary medicine, as I knew I wanted to work with animals and I had a strong interest in veterinary medicine. Over my time at F&M, I was exposed to so many wonderful career paths and fields of study through my classes, work in the vivarium, and internships that led me to change course. I am endlessly grateful for my experiences in college that led me to do work that I am so deeply passionate about.

Looking back on your college search, why did you choose F&M?

I chose F&M in part for the animal behavior degree that I felt would prepare me well for any animal-related work that I may pursue, but primarily for the one-of-a-kind, hands-on opportunities in animal science provided by the vivarium.

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