Posted: April 16, 2021

Gillian has been named the Student Marshall for AESE for Spring 2021 commencement. The Student Marshall holds a high honor and must be a graduating student with the highest GPA in the department.

Reflections from Gillian

As I reflect upon my undergraduate experience at Penn State, I am grateful to have been part of the Community, Environment, and Development program in the College of Agricultural Sciences. The program, combined with minors in International Agriculture and Anthropology, have allowed me to develop my passion and interest in human-animal interaction through classwork, internships, and research. I'm appreciative of AESE and the College of Agricultural Sciences for creating an atmosphere in which this is possible.

Throughout my time at Penn State, I have immersed myself in academic study which excites me. Having the space to combine my interests in community development and the equine industry has led me to pursue research in my classes focused on the equestrian community and the benefits of human-animal interactions. In addition to research for class, I've held research and teaching assistantships in International Agriculture and Anthropology that have allowed me to better understand the role of humans within the environment.

Strengthening my skills in research, teaching, and collaboration allowed me to find opportunities outside of the classroom as well, working in internships for Oxfam America and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, or in volunteer positions with Shaver's Creek Environmental Center and the non-profit Street Mutts. Furthermore, the encouragement I felt from the College and University to seek out opportunities for new learning experiences led me to study abroad in Belize in my freshman year.

Developing skills outside of the classroom was important for my personal and professional growth. As the President of the Small and Exotic Animal Club, I was challenged to grow as a team member and leader, learning how to remain open-minded, flexible, and supportive of the club's members as we transitioned to a virtual club experience.

Without the support of professors, faculty, and peers, my Penn State experience would not have been the same. I am grateful for the opportunities which this community provides, and I am looking forward to my new and evolving role in this community as an alumna!

Future Plans

I am planning for a full-time career in the equine industry. Throughout my career, I hope to combine my passions for horses and communities to establish my own business that facilitates human-equine interactions in a safe and compassionate barn community. Additionally, I hope to explore graduate programs in animal behavior, anthropology, or community development to develop my understanding of how humans interact with the environment, and in what ways mutually beneficial relationships can be established. After graduation, I accepted a position as the Head of the Equestrian Program at Camp Wayfarer in North Carolina.