[ACEL]: Hi Haley! Tell us how you decided to major in community leadership.
[Duff]: I started at Ohio State as a zoology major, and realized my interests were not in the science behind it all, but in connecting with people and sharing my passion for zoos, wildlife, and the environment. I searched all over Ohio State for a new major that would allow me to still graduate on time, help me grow as a person, and have supportive, caring faculty and staff. I never imagined I would find myself in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, but ACEL and community leadership were a perfect fit.
Why did you choose to attend The Ohio State University?
Even growing up in Arizona, being a Buckeye was my college dream. When it came time for college visits and applying, Ohio State was it, no question.
How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career so far?
My education at Ohio State has influenced my choice of career path by allowing me to pursue multiple avenues and passions at once. When ACEL required an internship, capstone credit, and minor, I had to test the waters of different fields and I found out what I liked and was good at, and what was not interesting to me. My career path is definitely still in formation but I definitely attribute where I am now, and have been, to those experiences.
What were you involved on campus as a student?
At Ohio State I worked a campus job at EspressOH at the Ohio Union, and was involved in a few student organizations. One being my sorority, Tau Beta Sigma- a band oriented sorority, and the Nonprofit Immersion Program.
What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State?
I enjoyed many of my leadership classes that involved a lot of self-discovery and professional development. These have given me a huge leg up in interviews and the workplace on a personal level and working with teams. One of my all time favorite classes I took was for my zoology minor, a class called ‘dynamics of dinosaurs’ where we studied dinosaur fossils and physiology. That class and professor helped me realize I didn’t have to be in a lab doing science, but could translate the hard work of scientists to accessible information to help others understand natural history and ecology. And the fossils were so cool!
Did you have a faculty member or professor that had an impact on you during your time at Ohio State?
So many of the faculty in staff in ACEL impacted my education. They were supportive and found solutions to problems with credits and scheduling where others might have not. Emily Wickham, Dr. Birkenholz, Dr. King, and Dr. Chris Igodan made a lasting impression of what a mentor and leader should do for their students.
What is your favorite memory related to your time at Ohio State?
One of my favorite memories from my time at Ohio State was going down to New Orleans with some friends to watch the Buckeyes beat Alabama at the Sugar Bowl!
What was your first job after you graduated?
My first job after graduating was in Orlando, Florida working at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! I did two successive internships there and loved every second of it.
Since graduating, even though it was just a few years ago, where have you worked?
Following my internships with Disney, I worked at the Cincinnati Zoo through AmeriCorps. Now, I live in Washington DC and work full-time for the African Wildlife Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on wildlife conservation, land and habitat protection, community empowerment and economic development throughout the continent of Africa.
As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
My favorite career highlight so far was my internship in conservation education at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I loved interacting with guests who didn’t realize our park is an accredited zoo and sharing conservation messages and the animals with them. To go along with the theme of the park, I also got to dress like a “wilderness explorer” from the movie “Up” every day, which was so much fun.
What advice would you give to a current student?
I would tell a current student to take as many opportunities to work on a team, network, and see Columbus as they can. It can be easy to stay in and study and do homework, or even stick to a small social group, but being able to collaborate and network and have interesting, productive conversations with other is not just a useful skill but can be fun and open new doors!
What did ACEL cultivate in you?
The Department and classes I took cultivated in me what it means to be a leader and care for your team. I had mentors and professors who cared for my well-being and education, which I in turn cared more for the people around me as well, and have carried that value through the past year since graduating.