Z IS FOR ZOO!
One component of the Residential MBA Program (RMBA) is the completion of a yearlong co-op at a local organization. While each co-op is unique, recent graduate Kortni Fennig became a new first as she served as the Marketing and Special Events Intern at the Indianapolis Zoo.
I am not one of those people who like to leave things up to fate. Last summer, I decided that I was going to be in the Residential MBA (RMBA) Program. Since I was going to live in Michigan all summer, I felt like I had to act fast to secure a good co-op. I wanted to get the best experience out of my time, so I started researching quickly!
For some reason, co-oping at the Indianapolis Zoo was on my heart. I had never pictured myself in a true “business” setting, but this is what came to mind. I wanted a non-traditional job that wouldn’t trap me behind a computer all day; I am too active for such a thing!
To even contact employers at the zoo, I first searched for email addresses in order to find someone who could redirect me to the correct person. Let me tell you…getting their attention did NOT come easily! I emailed them countless times without response. Finally, one afternoon I received word back from them. Since I was away, I interviewed and accepted via phone, but it was such a blessing. I guess you could say persistence really does pay off!
The zoo was the best co-op I could have ever asked for. Although my boss was patient and flexible, she trusted me and gave me great responsibility as an intern. I felt like I just there to do the work that no one else wanted to do. Without that patience and trust, my experience would have been completely different.
Additionally, I learned that “real life work” is nothing like the classroom. Without experiences like this, you have no foundation to step on when looking to enter into a career.
During my co-op, I was given a large responsibility to co-planning and run events—some of which attract more than 60,000 people to zoo grounds. For example, on several nights of Christmas at the Zoo, I was the woman in charge. I was the go-to person to answer any or all questions and was to make the executive decisions when needed. Not many interns are given this kind of experience where they can truly feel what it is like to have full responsibility—I loved that aspect!
Also, the zoo found that I have a passion and talent for photography. When that was discovered, I was immediately given a role as the event photographer. They put on scissor lifts to take shots overlooking the zoo, and asked me to capture anything and everything for promotional purposes. I was in heaven!
The Indianapolis Zoo has used countless photographs of mine on the website and through promotions; however, my most prominent achievement in this area was landing three photos in the Indianapolis Zoo’s 2010 Annual Report—something that was placed in thousands of people’s hands.
There were many fun aspects of working at the zoo. For example, I was able to have special experiences that the average citizen would never have the opportunity to have, like being up close and personal with the elephants or having Kubwa, one of our elephants, paint me her own piece of art on a canvas for my home. I also met several of the dolphins personally, and met the newest addition to the Indianapolis Zoo family, a baby elephant.
One of lessons I learned was to choose an organization that will ignite your passions. The Indianapolis Zoo has something to be excited about in what they do and the directions they are going. Simply working for an organization for the paycheck is not good enough. We all need something in a company that keeps us excited about life! The zoo does those things for me and continued to allow my other passions in life shine through in my own life.
Another point I learned was to give to the people in your workplace. Give your time. Give your advice (whether that be in their personal life or for a work situation). Give a smile. Give a little extra effort. Giving goes a long way and sometimes you will be rewarded in the best ways. Giving those things makes a huge difference in the lives of others. Giving takes you places and is more rewarding than you ever thought possible.
My boss at the zoo came to me one day in April and asked if I would stay on and work with her full-time through the summer. I was honored by her words about my outstanding work ethic, positive attitude and skills that went above what she had ever expected from me as an intern. After careful thought and more conversation, I accepted that invitation and am currently in my last four weeks at the Indianapolis Zoo.
Though my time there, I have gained a great network base and have had the privilege to meet with various CEOs, CFOs, and CSOs as I look for a career that suits my personality and interests. The entire RMBA Program has brought me a long way and into a stage of life I never believed possible. Anderson University continues to amaze me in what it has helped me accomplish.