BGSU, Toledo Zoo Expand Partnership Offering Employment To Students

Danny Baroudi and Libby Bumb are two of the six BGSU students working at the Toledo Zoo as part of a unique fellowship program. PHOTO COURTESY OF BGSU

Expanding on a mutually beneficial partnership launched earlier this year, Bowling Green State University and the Toledo Zoo have developed a multi-year fellowship program that provides students with valuable career experience, mentorship and a pipeline to full-time job opportunities.

The partnership is one of many the university is establishing with local, regional and national organizations to position BGSU students for professional success, a key part of driving economic vitality in the state and region.

The paid fellowship offers students with up to three years of experience in various fields, including conservation, finance, marketing, biology, operations and more, with the potential for full-time employment after graduation.

“The Toledo Zoo fellowship program represents a unique opportunity for BGSU students to build on the skills they’re learning in class while gaining exceptional work experience that employers value,” said Steve Russell, assistant vice president and executive director of the Michael and Sara Kuhlin Hub for Career Design and Connections at BGSU.

“A key focus of the Kuhlin Hub is increasing our employer partnerships to provide students with meaningful experiential learning opportunities that can lead to successful and meaningful careers.”

BGSU formalized its longtime collaborative relationship with the Toledo Zoo in April with the announcement of an expansion of its Wild Toledo conservation program on the university’s campus. The partnership includes increasing the production of native plants on 14 acres of campus land and providing learning, research and conservation opportunities for students and faculty.

The zoo launched its fellowship program this past summer and hired six BGSU students, from sophomores to seniors, to work in areas related to their majors or career interests. The students worked full time in the summer and are continuing part time during the academic year. 

The goal is for students to continue the program through graduation with the possibility of joining the zoo full time.

“The continued support by Bowling Green State University of the zoo’s mission provides us with an opportunity to inspire the next generation, and we’re incredibly grateful for that,” said Shayla Moriarty, chief operating officer and executive vice president of the Toledo Zoo. “By combining our resources and expertise, we are offering students an unparalleled learning experience while helping shape the future leaders of this community.”

Russell said the program’s model could be a catalyst to launch additional fellowships through the Kuhlin Hub, which opened in 2023 as part of the Life Design ecosystem to aid students in aligning their interests with future career opportunities.

The zoo’s Trash the Tank exhibit entices visitors to remove plastic water bottles and other pollutants from a sturgeon fish tank. BGSU student Danny Baroudi labeled the items floating in the tank with educational information on the dangers material waste poses to the environment and ways to reduce consumption. 

“A large focus of my role at the zoo is to develop sustainability messaging that resonates with people,” Baroudi said. “We want the information to elicit a reaction that impacts their future behaviors in ways that positively benefit our environment.”

Baroudi is majoring in marketing and minoring in sustainability, a degree path he said has helped prepare him for his role at the zoo and a future career.

“Many of my BGSU business professors have real-world business experience, which makes what they’re teaching us in class much more authentic,” Baroudi said. “The experiences they share really resonate with me because I can see how the concepts apply in real life.”

BGSU junior Libby Bumb works in the zoo’s marketing department through the fellowship program and helps develop strategies and content to elevate its brand on its social platforms.

A marketing major, Bumb said she values her autonomy to be creative and present out-of-the-box ideas – a concept she recalled from an introductory marketing class at BGSU.

“I remember my professor explaining in class that the wildest ideas are the ones that get people’s attention,” she said. “That encouragement to think outside the box has been so beneficial in this internship.

“I’m excited to build on the knowledge I gained over the summer and combine it with what I’ll learn in classes this year to come up with even better digital marketing ideas for the zoo.”

BGSU is among the few universities in the country with career connectors focused solely on growing its network of corporate partners to create career opportunities for students.

“The Toledo Zoo is thrilled to have developed this fellowship program with BGSU,” said Michelle Doyle, vice president of food service and merchandise operations at the Toledo Zoo, who is coordinating the fellowship with Moriarty and Toledo Zoo CEO and executive director Jeff Sailer. “Through our program, students contribute to the zoo’s educational and conservation efforts in numerous capacities while building valuable professional and leadership skills.”

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