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Catherine Cummings

Master’s in Animals and Public Policy (MAPP) Candidate 2021

• B.S., Cell and Molecular Biology, State University of New York at New Paltz (SUNY New Paltz), 2018
• Advanced Certificate, Animal Behavior and Conservation, CUNY Hunter College, 2020

What were you doing before entering the Masters in Animals and Public Policy (MAPP) program?
After graduating college, I interned for a year at Green Chimneys, a non-profit organization which provides residential and day treatment for students aged 5-18. I worked between two of the animal care areas, the farm animal barn and the wildlife rehabilitation center. Green Chimneys is a K-12 school for children with special needs and behavioral issues. This internship allowed me to work directly with animals and children by facilitating human-animal interactions. During my time with Green Chimneys I began searching for graduate programs which could expand my knowledge on animal behavior and human-animal interactions. This past year I pursued an Advanced Certificate in Animal Behavior and Conservation at Hunter College.

What aspects of MAPP led to your decision to join the program?
One of the main driving factors which drew me to join the program was how diverse the curriculum and faculty are. The wide range of courses offered by MAPP will allow me to become well rounded and educated in policies and laws for companion animals as well as wildlife.
Interests in and experience with animals
I grew up in a household with numerous kinds of pets including: horses, dogs, cats, fish, parrots, a ferret, a sugar glider and ducks. My love for animals was evident at a young age that my mother reached out to a local zoo, the Trevor Zoo, to see if I could begin volunteering. I volunteered/worked with the zoo for nine years before I moved away for college. As I originally wanted to pursue veterinary medicine, I had also reached out to a local vet clinic to work a few hours after school. This vet clinic had great staff which encouraged me to watch and learn from all different kinds of procedures.
Post-undergraduate school I interned with Green Chimneys for a year and strengthened my husbandry skills as well as my experiences facilitating human-animal interactions. I assisted with therapeutic interventions in conjunction with social workers as well as facilitating my own activities one-on-one with children.

What do you want to focus on at MAPP? What drew you to this area?
I am quite flexible and am open to changing my focus throughout my time with MAPP, but I am pursuing this degree with the intentions of focusing on human-wildlife conflict (HWC) and how to create and advocate for effective policies. I need to thank Dr Joshua Plotnik for helping me recognize my passion for this area. January 2020 I traveled around Thailand with him for a field course where we met with captive elephant organizations, local community members who experienced HWC, and NGO’s. After meeting with NGO’s in Thailand I recognized my passion for wildlife conservation and sought out a Master’s program that had a direct focus on creating and communicating policies.

What are your career goals?
My career goals include pursuing research with human-wildlife conflict and how it affects both humans and animals. After completing some research I hope to work for a NGO and create strong policies for wildlife conservation. I am interested in living abroad and moving between different countries for work!

What are your outside interests?
Some of my outside interests include: hiking, paddle boarding, cooking, traveling, and scuba diving.

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