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Kirsten Welborn

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

B.S., Animal Science, Michigan State University, 2019

Current Position: Research Technician, Charles River Laboratories

What were you doing before entering the Masters in Animals and Public Policy (MAPP) program?
I studied at Michigan State, where I majored in Animal Science where I concentrated in Companion and Exotic Animal Management, but also instead of double-majoring, took many Zoology courses as that was another large area of interest to me. After graduating from Michigan State in 2019, I spent over a year working in biomedical research at Charles River Laboratories in Mattawan, MI working specifically in Pre-Clinical Safety Assessment in my role as a Research Technician focused in Small Animal General Toxicology. It has been incredible gaining experience working onsite at the world’s largest single site pre-clinical facility. I also adopted an adorable rescue puppy from Missouri in August of 2019 and I get to enjoy exploring his intelligence and company (although he is staying at home in MI this year).

What aspects of MAPP led to your decision to join the program?
To be honest, I don’t have a clear-cut answer. I stumbled upon the program from a Google Search a few years ago, after I took up an interest in Animal Welfare and Behavior. My education has been entirely defined as a journey and not a destination where I’ve fully known my direction. MAPP is a program that offers a lot of options for students to choose from to personalize their experience, it wasn’t just a mold that everyone comes out the same from. I’ve also always felt a connection and passion for animals and desired to understand more about human-animal interactions. I never really desired to become a vet as my interests were different than that, but I wanted to work with and for animals. The MAPP program checked a lot of the boxes and was unlike anything else out there.

Interests in and experience with animals?
From the day I was brought home from the hospital up till today, I always had a pet around me. Trips to the zoo, whether with family or through school, were something that excited me, brought me so much joy, and were a staple place to visit when traveling. I just always have had a natural inclination and connection to animals, that made me desire to be around and with animals. Whether it was walking my or my neighbor’s dogs, pet sitting, or animals at summer camp nature centers, if there were animals to see and learn about, I would be there. When I was younger, I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I also wanted to be a garbage man, law enforcement officer, fireman, engineer, and whatever else my career dreams morphed into as I grew up. Simply put: I was the typical student in my undergraduate courses who raised their hand to the question “How many of you are here because you would rather work with animals rather than people?” In my undergraduate career is where I found that there were careers working with and for animals, that go beyond being a veterinarian or animal agricultural worker. Today I get to work with animals daily at my job and it is fulfilling to both work with the animals, but also see the difference they make in the world through research.

What do you want to focus on at MAPP?
I want to primarily focus on the human-animal relationship as well as animal welfare. I want to understand more about the policy and law-making aspect, as those factors play into those issues as well, as other hot topic animal related issues that I hope to one day to assist in finding the answers to.

What drew you to this?
To be honest, until late in my undergraduate career, graduate studies were not on my radar, but then after taking courses in animal welfare where I earned the opportunity to participate and compete on a team in the AVMA Animal Welfare Competition, I really found that I wanted to keep learning and see how I could make a greater difference in the world for animals. I discovered the program a couple years ago on a whim and became very intrigued by it. It was a unique program that I didn’t see a single thing like it anywhere else. It was something small and from everything I read, it sounded like the program was not just growing a network, but a family. The thought of it never left. I also liked that the program only takes about one year and that I can decide between two tracks. I like that I can focus on multiple aspects that interest me in the program and be able to get to know a lot more of my peers.

What are your career goals?
I would like to continue a career in Laboratory Animal Science, either becoming part of an Animal Welfare Department or working as part of an IACUC. Although to be honest, the opportunities are endless and if participating in the program leads me in another direction, I would be okay with that. If I had the opportunity, I would potentially like to perform research to improve the welfare or certain refinement practices in laboratory animal research. I would like to study the behavior of laboratory animals as well; I think it would be a goal of mine to earn a PhD. I would also like to advocate for more education on the purposes and benefits of animal research. Policy wise, I’d like to be able to protect those with service animals, but able to give a legal definition between working animals, service animals,

What are your outside interests?
I enjoy the outdoors and staying active, whether it is playing competitive and recreational ultimate frisbee, long-distance running, kayaking, working out, or taking a hike. I also don’t mind a night in reading, watching movies, or streaming TV shows. I also enjoy reading a bunch of “Dad Jokes” as well as sharing my fluency in puns.

Number of pets? What?
I have one dog of my own. A one-year old Border Collie mix named Rizzo.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
I didn’t see myself here in 2020, but I don’t think any of us ever saw 2020 coming. And I am excited for the MAPP program. I’m from Michigan, so moving to Massachusetts will be different since I can’t really use my hand as a map to point at to show where I am from (but I will find a way to try. I am excited to explore both a new educational adventure as well as actually exploring the Northern portion of the Eastern Seaboard.

MAPP Externship: CARE-ing for Humans and Animals: Compassion Fatigue in Laboratory Animal Professionals

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