Photo by Gabriela Jeronimo | A zookeeper feeds an elephant at the Roger Williams Zoo.

For the first time at the University of Rhode Island, a zoo management class is available to any animal science major to take at the Roger Williams Park Zoo.

Justin Richard is currently teaching the course at the zoo and believes that it will do nothing but advance students’ knowledge on, not just animal science, but specifically the day to day actions that occur at a zoo. Each day, the students get to meet a new person that works at the zoo.

“Each week a different zoo professional visits the class and provides content on their area of expertise,” Richard said. “So it’s a really unique opportunity for students to learn straight from the professionals themselves that are working in the field on a day to day basis and what goes into a modern zoo.”

Richard himself had nothing but positive things to say about the class. Cassidy Clark, a student currently enrolled in the class, agreed with him. She sees this opportunity as a great way for students to step outside the classroom and apply themselves to the real world.

“It’s one of the few in my major that offers a lot of experience in the field of what I’m looking at doing for a career,” Clark said. “We’ve gone to different zoo’s, we’ve done a lot of behind the scenes stuff, which I think is something not a lot of people get the experience to do, especially in college.”

The other benefit of this class is seeing and learning the plethora of jobs that are out there and the students’ minds are broadened as to what they can possibly do in the future. For Clark and other students enrolled, the class offers an opportunity to dive into the different jobs they could take on after graduating from URI. Not only does the class offer a new experience outside of the classroom, but a new opportunity for their future.

“We’ve heard from veterinarians, keepers, educators, administrators and people involved with exhibit design,” Richard said. “There’s been a really broad exposure to different professionals and animal science students might be interested in many aspects of what goes into a zoo and not just caring for the animals.”

Besides meeting professionals in the workforce, the students must also complete one big project for the class. This project allows the students to not just apply what they learned to their future but to a project that is used on a day to day basis in zoos.

“The big assignment for the course is they are creating their own animal care manual which is an actual document that students will use to set the standards of care for all the various species,” Richard said. “The students get to choose their own species and compose an animal care manual as if they were writing it for other zoo professionals. It’s a neat opportunity to apply what they are learning in class to a new situation and one that’s of interest to them.”

So far the class is doing very well and Richard hopes it will continue to be offered since it is at full capacity this semester and others deserve to receive this same opportunity. Both Richard and Clark suggest that no matter what your major is, one should take this class due to its interesting nature and the real world application it provides.

“I recommend it even if it’s not something people think they want to do just because it’s fun at the very nature of it it’s really interesting, it’s really valuable,” said Clark. “I think despite whether you want to go into the career of zoology, you get to get so many different experiences which you don’t get from sitting in a class at URI.”