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by Jessica McDunn, University Relations

Students who earn degrees from HPU work in a wide variety of fields: technology, business, nursing…and even dolphin training.

It is HPU’s unique location surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, and partnerships with organizations here and all over the world, that allow HPU graduates the opportunities to obtain career positions in a variety of environments.

“ I can’t believe that I landed my dream job, and HPU definitely helped me find it,” said Ricky Brannon (B.S. in Marine Biology ‘04), an animal trainer at Sea Life Park at Makapu‘u Point. “I love seeing the faces on people who have dreamed of meeting dolphins. It’s an incredible feeling to share in the joy of making someone’s dreams come true.”

HPU’s marine science degree programs, including a new master’s degree in marine science, and bachelor’s degree programs in marine biology and oceanography, offer students the chance to learn through hands-on field experience and research opportunities at HPU’s affiliate, Oceanic Institute (OI). These learning experiences better prepare graduates for positions in organizations such as Sea Life Park, which is located right next door to OI.

“ HPU helps students think beyond the classroom setting so they can function as effective young professionals in the community,” said Jeff Pawloski, Sea Life Park education and research coordinator. “An HPU graduate is capable of meeting and exceeding the challenges provided while working at Sea Life Park. They come to us with a solid academic background, good work ethic, are strong team leaders, and are overflowing with enthusiasm.”

“ With a degree in science you are qualified to do almost anything, since students will have had training in mathematics, writing, and analytical, critical, and creative thinking,” said Dr. Alissa Arp, dean of HPU’s College of Natural Sciences and vice president of research.

Having Fun with Nature. “I work with fish, stingrays, turtles, and sharks,” said Jennifer Kawaratani (B.S. in Marine Biology ‘05), an aquarist at Sea Life Park. “What I learned at HPU has helped me create better environments for our animals. I can perform necropsies to find out how an animal died and what we can change in our park environment to prevent a similar death.”

HPU has been instrumental in helping students find jobs working with marine animals including dolphins, sea lions, penguins, monk seals, turtles, stingrays, sharks, reef fish, and sea birds. HPU students and alumni are qualified to work in exhibit, interactive, reproductive, show, rehabilitation, medical, outreach education, and veterinary programs.

“ One of my professors made the initial contact with the head of the education department at Sea Life Park,” said Brannon. “All I needed was a little help from my professor, and she opened the door for me.”

“ I found out about volunteering at the park from other classmates volunteering there,” said Kawaratani, who volunteered at Sea Life Park while finishing her degree. “I apply what I learned at HPU to my job. HPU gave me a base of knowledge that I was able to expand from my experiences at the park.”

HPU psychology sophomore Vanessa Gray was offered an internship at Sea Life Park during the spring 2007 semester. “I assisted with dolphin training sessions, feeding, and husbandry behaviors,” said Gray. She said she hopes to work at the park full time after graduation. More than 85 percent of HPU interns applying for positions at Sea Life Park are hired.

“ By working at Sea Life Park, I have become a rescue diver and will be a divemaster shortly, therefore opening more doors and more career options for me,” said Kawaratani. “I am also a member of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences for scientific divers due to my position.”

“ HPU students are able to apply their academic knowledge to real life situations,” said Pawloski. “An excellent example would be both animal trainer Ricky Brannon and aquarist Jen Kawaratani.

“ Ricky has applied his knowledge of marine mammal biology and behavior along with course work in psychology to train dolphins and sea lions. Jen’s ability to connect with guests makes her an effective teacher and steward for the marine environment. Both Ricky and Jen are tremendous assets to Sea Life Park and project a level of professionalism and knowledge which reflects on their academic background provided at HPU.”

For more information on HPU’s marine science program, visit www.hpu.edu/marinebiology, www.hpu.edu/oceanography, or www.hpu.edu/msms, or call 544-0238.



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