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Winning More Than Human Victories

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Although Horace Mann has advised us that we all might aspire to win that “Victory for Humanity” some Antiochians actually go well beyond that and work on victories for various parts of the animal kingdom and various parts of the larger ecosystem. (Plants may need their victories too!) There is a big world out there and many pieces of that world are in peril. There is so much to rescue and much to fix.

About 10 years ago while the College was closed and this Buffalo was working at the College Revival Fund, on a Sunday evening I was doing Sunday dishes and was also watching 60 Minutes. I caught the name Andrea Turkalo. Immediately I thought that name rang a bell and had to be mighty uncommon. It just had to be someone I may have been in a Biology class with, perhaps a Bob Bieri or Jim Howell class in the 70s. Back then classes were much larger and you might not have gotten to know every single person in a class. I told my other half, “I know that person!” and the response was a skeptical, “Sure you did!” So I put the dishes on hold and watched the 60 Minutes piece.

The face was vaguely familiar. After some research I found out that THAT Andrea Turkalo was an Antiochian from the class of ’74. She has been involved with the Elephant Listening Project and also works for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Sometimes called a “Natural World Hero,” Andrea has been studying the forest elephant population at the Dzanga Clearing in the Central African Republic (CAR) since 1990. Some people have called her “The Elephant Whisperer” and she is known to be the leading expert on Africa’s reclusive forest elephants. A bio from Natural World Safaris states, “Andrea spent her formative years a world away from the forests of the CAR, in Taunton, Massachusetts as part of a blue collar family, attending public school,“ and then went to attend Antioch College where she majored in environmental studies and cultural geography.

According to Natural World Safari, “Antioch opened her eyes to the wider world and gave her a taste of the wilderness with an opportunity to spend time in the Rocky Mountains. The remoteness and isolation appealed to her, preparing her for the Dzanga study.”

Many decades later Antiochians still are working on victories for the animal kingdom. There have been a few passionate pre-vet students since we have re-opened.

Recently, Maria Lopez ‘21 went on a Co-op to Puerto Rico. She very much is wanting to be a veterinarian. On a previous Co-op, she also assisted a veterinarian with farm animals in Guatemala. An affinity group of alums called the AOC (Antiochians of Courage for Diversity), which has a fund titled the Alumni of Color fund (no, it is not identity politics — it is just a diverse group of alums who want to help folks like them coming down the road), helped Maria out. As a trusted person with some continuity I was appointed as a contact person between alums and the students who are currently on campus.

Maria hangs out regularly as a library lion and after some talk with her and her Co-op advisor, it was only natural that she should get a Co-op

A photo of Maria Lopez' 21 and vets and volunteers participating in a SATO Project vet clinic in Puerto Rico.

Maria Lopez ’21, second from left in the white shirt, and some of the SATO Project vet techs and volunteers.

stipend. (That Co-op I mentioned paid in experience rather than money.) The AOC group requests that students write a proposal and do a reflection paper so they can put their experience and stipend in some context. Maria’s reflection can be read at this link. Thank you to Bradley Wilburn ’85, an original AOC group member, for making sure that students write proposals and follow up with some reflection. As mentioned at the top of this Grazing, even in the animal kingdom much is in peril and there is much to “fix.” In this case it is vaccinations, spaying, neutering, and love for cats and dogs.

Who knows what will be next? Maria follows in great footsteps, even if some of those might be elephant footsteps or others. Antiochians, although non-paid internships can be wonderful, if you have any leads to Co-ops that include both growing experiences and pay well please tell the College.