Meet Annika Howland, recent EATM graduate

photo of Annika Howland, recent EATM graduate

Hi, I’m Annika Howland! I grew up in Maui, Hawaii and graduated from Maui High School in 2007. After graduating, I moved to California and started working immediately. I had no idea what career path I wanted to take, and I knew college wasn’t an option for me because I couldn’t afford it. I worked for a few years and made my way up within a company before I realized it wasn’t the right career for me. I went back to school at De Anza College in Cupertino, California, just taking GE classes to get some sort of education. Then, when I was 23, I learned about the Exotic Animal Training and Management (EATM) program at Moorpark College. I applied and finally got into the program, and in May 2017, I graduated with a second Associate's degree and a job in the career field of my dreams.

My favorite class at Moorpark College has been the EATM program’s Outreach class that I took with instructor Rick Schwartz. This class taught me how to handle animals while on outreach, how to speak to different age groups in public, and how to inspire the people to make a change to their world through conservation efforts. My teacher was very inspiring, and, since I enjoy talking to the public, I was able to apply what I learned in class to help bring awareness to the Moorpark College Zoo’s Master Plan expansion. It’s easy to inspire the people to make a change when you believe in what you’re speaking about.

While at Moorpark, I was involved in a few clubs. I was the PR chair for Future Animal Professionals, which is a club for EATM students. We are responsible for creating fun and exciting class events, raising money for EATM field trips to Davis and San Diego, and for bringing cohesiveness to our fellow classmates and staff. I was also a member of the American Association of Zookeepers (Moorpark College Chapter). Most notably I worked as the PR manager alongside staff member Mara Rodriguez. I managed the zoo’s social media sites on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and monthly newsletters. I’ve helped create Buzzworthy videos that showcase what happens at America’s Teaching Zoo, and how we hope to expand our zoo. These videos have been instrumental in getting the zoo’s message out to the general public about what a great program we have here and how we hope to do more great work in the future.

My advice for incoming students who are interested in taking EATM classes is to get your life in order before you decide to take this journey - it will help make things a little more manageable since the program is so demanding. It’s important to get all of your general education classes done beforehand and take any EATM classes that are open to the general school population so that while you’re in the program you have a lighter load and don’t have to worry about all the "extra stuff." The more you put into this program and your education, the more you’ll get out of it. But most importantly, get ready to meet staff who are excited to teach!