The following interview is part of a series the College of Science conducted with some of our alumni. While their experiences and career paths vary widely, their passion for science and love for the College and OSU tie them together.
Kaelie (Sivihok) Spencer ('16)
Occupation: Aquarist and Animal Enrichment Coordinator, Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Why did you choose to study at OSU?
Oregon State has the best research program for biology/zoology and this was very important to me. I've known I wanted to be marine biologist since I came out of the womb, so it was just choosing a school that had classes and opportunities for me to pursue that.
How did the College of Science prepare you for your future career?
The College gave me lots of opportunities to network. It also gave me lots of chances to fight for what I wanted. The tests were hard for me, sometimes the lecture format was difficult for me, but I found study groups and people who helped me through.
Describe your career? How are you making a difference?
My job is just like zookeeping, just for fishes! Inspiring conversation and passing on knowledge to the next world leaders are just some of the reasons I love my job. Climate change is a battle the world has to fight together, and getting people on board with how they can help and why they should help is huge.
What might people be surprised to learn about your profession?
I spend about 70% of my time above water and about 30% of my time under water! Diving is such a big part of my job, both in the ocean and in our enclosures! I also care for our Pacific Northwest animals so I feel a little closer to home. :)
How were you involved in the OSU community?
I was a lab prep assistant for three years for Dr. Lori Kayes in the BI21X series (which I loved!) I was co-president for the Integrative Biology Club for two years, and treasurer for one, and I volunteered in the Lubchenco-Menge Lab for two years. I also sat on the council for the College of Science Student Advisory Committee (COSSAC).
What is one favorite College of Science memory?
I loved being involved in the Integrative Biology Club. I always planned an overnight trip to the Oregon Coast Aquarium and loved sleeping in the shark tunnel! I also met my best friend in college and we did a lot of volunteer work together and created such a special bond!
Was there a particular professor or advisor who made an impact in your undergraduate career?
Student Success Advisor Jen Olarra is without a doubt the person who stood in my corner every minute of my time there. She always had a solution and followed up regularly with me. OSU is a big school and it’s easy to feel like another number, but Jen always makes you feel like an individual and I am so grateful for her.
What did you do for fun to de-stress from schoolwork?
I loved hiking around Corvallis (San Diego is pretty too but I miss those fall colors so much!). I also spent lots of time crafting and having dinner nights with my group of friends (something I miss a lot now!). My now-husband is such a good chef, so we would have dinner nights and watch movies and it was an amazing way to de-stress. Also, if I was in the middle of a study session and started to feel bogged down, I would pick a song to jam out to and listen to it at top volume and maybe dance!
If you could give a future College of Science student advice, what would it be?
Take any and all opportunities you can. Join clubs, do volunteer work, get involved in your campus and college. Networking is 90% of life, and starting those skills as early as you can is imperative. I learned about the certificate program I did after school from another volunteer in the lab I was volunteering in. Had I not met her, I might not have found out about the program, and I wouldn't be here today at Birch Aquarium. It's all in the networking!