Exploring my passion by volunteering at the Shedd Aquarium

Business school offers you the opportunity to have a lot of new experiences. Many are what you’d typically expect: exciting classes, building your leadership skills in a new environment, and traveling with your new friends. Having managed to check all of these boxes during my first year, I wanted to make sure I spent some time during my last year at Booth on things that had personal significance to me. 

With a vibrant passion for the environment and animal-welfare, I explored different options of getting-involved with the Chicago community that focused in these areas. Through my research I found volunteer opportunities at the Shedd Aquarium. I’ve always been fascinated with aquariums because of how they can transport you to another world that’s supposed to be inaccessible, yet there it is in front of you on the other side of the glass. Because of this, I was extremely excited for the opportunity to volunteer.

The position I applied for was in the Research and Evaluation department. When I found it, I couldn’t believe how perfect this was for me. After graduation, I will be working in technology as a Product Manager, and an aspect of my role will be conducting consumer interviews to find problems to solve and therefore make customers’ experiences with my products better. As a Research and Evaluation volunteer, I work in the department that does the same thing for Shedd guests and their experiences at the aquarium. The team uses their findings from guests’ feedback to improve anything related to the experience of visiting Shedd, including the programming, exhibits, and activities. Because of the flexible schedule that business school affords me, I had found a unique opportunity that aligned my personal passions with a role that strengthens the skills I’ll need in my career.

I now volunteer at Shedd every Thursday. My responsibilities evolve as I get more experienced, and also change every week depending on current projects and on-going initiatives. However, I’ll frequently be on the aquarium floor conducting surveys with guests or admiring the colors of the Underwater Beauty exhibit.

Volunteering also comes with its perks. After completing my required hours, I get to bring in close friends and family for free, which helps me spread Shedd’s mission to my network. I also get membership prices for Extraordinary Experiences which I have taken advantage of, and the Trainer for a Day experience was truly an unforgettable!

My fiance and I during the Trainer for a Day Extraordinary Experience. We had a full day, and training with a Beluga being the final stop!

Your time at business school is an opportunity to reflect, experiment, and expand your horizons, and there’s no single defined way to do that. The lessons you learn at school and at your dream job can be applied in many unexpected places. You never know what new experience you might find if you just take a whale-y hard look.

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