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Career Corner: Education

chrisphilpott ZA 3339 1Name: Chris

Position Title: Animal Immersion Programs Supervisor

Education: Bachelor of Science – Psychology

Hometown: Baton Rouge, LA

Length of time at Zoo Atlanta: Five years

Tell us about your job and any projects you are working on.

My main responsibility is to manage and develop our animal immersion programs, like our Wild Encounters and our Keeper for a Day programs. These experiences are unique among the programs offered at the Zoo in that they allow you to get access that you don’t get anywhere else. By bringing people closer to our animal ambassadors, we get to forge a personal connection between our guests and the species we strive to protect and really amplify our message. Currently, I’m preparing everything to go into full gear as we ramp up for the summer season where we offer these programs every day. This will be my fourth summer working with these programs and it’s by far my favorite time of year.

What attracted you to this field?

To be honest, I found my passion for this field by chance. Two weeks after we got married, my wife and I moved to Atlanta so that she could work on her PhD at Georgia Tech. I had a background in formal education and a passion for conservation, but at the time I hadn’t considered the possibility of combining them to work in a field like this. So, when a seasonal Safari Camp position opened at the Zoo, I jumped at the opportunity and thankfully I wound up with a manager who really invested in me and continued to help me grow over the years. Now, I lead a team of amazing educators and get to share my passion for conservation with thousands of guests every year.

What do you consider to be the highlight of your career so far?

It’s hard to narrow all the amazing opportunities this career has afforded me into a single highlight. I would say that the thing I am most proud of is spearheading Project Pollinator at Zoo Atlanta and helping develop our pollinator programing here at the Zoo. Through my work with Project Pollinator, I have had the opportunity to engage with stakeholders, build toward a better community, and make a difference for the species in my own backyard.

What prepared you for your job?

Before I left Louisiana, I was a Camp Director for the local Parks and Recreation Department in Baton Rouge. I was responsible for the complete day-to-day operation of the camp. It was an incredible responsibility but was very rewarding. During that time, I honed a great number of skills that have helped me succeed in my current role.

What advice would you give to students interested in your career?

Always challenge yourself! I try to seek out things that will help me develop skills that I want to improve or will offer me experience in an area I might be lacking. If you’re not learning and growing from what you’re doing now, then it might be time for you to reevaluate and seek out new challenges.

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