By Daniel DiPrinzio
When Aileen Shotzberger thought about what she wanted to do after graduating from Cabrini College, she thought big – literally. This summer, she’ll travel to Thailand to help rescue elephants.
Shotzberger, who graduates from Cabrini College May 20 with a degree in graphic design, is one of 12 volunteers from around the world who will work with Global Vision International on the elephant rescue project.
In Thailand, elephants are often made to perform tricks or pose with photos for tourists, earning money for their owners, mahouts.
“Almost every family in the village where I’ll be staying owns an elephant,” explains Shotzberger, who leaves July 26 for the two-month endeavor. “We’ll work with the mahouts to find alternative lifestyles for the elephants.”
Shotzberger will stay with a host family of the Karen tribe in a remote village in northern Thailand, and also will teach English to children in and around the village. Living with limited electricity, using standing water in a bucket to bathe, and sleeping with a mosquito net to ward off malaria may not sound like the most glamorous start to a post-college career, but Shotzberger wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I know I’m not ready to sit behind a desk,” Shotzberger says. “I want to experience the world, do more with my life than just get right into the job industry. And I’m an animal person, obviously.”
Shotzberger incorporated her passion for elephant rescue into her studies, creating a “Save the Elephants” website and advertising campaign for her senior capstone project in her major.
The Asian elephant is in greater danger of extinction than the African elephant, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants, and the WWF estimates the number of Asian elephants in the wild to be between 26,000 and 33,000, less than one-tenth the number of wild African elephants. The peril facing the Asian elephant – poaching and loss of habitat are among the major threats – is why Shotzberger chose to work with this population.
Shotzberger was heavily involved at Cabrini, serving as president of the College’s chapter of the American Institute for Graphic Arts, as well as serving as an orientation leader for new students, and helping to plan and coordinate campus events and activities for students.
She also was a graphic design intern for 18 months at United States Liability Insurance, a company headed by Tom Nerney, a 1977 Cabrini graduate and vice chair of the College’s Board of Trustees.
A native of Syracuse, N.Y., Shotzberger seems to have inherited her passion for animal conservation. Her mother runs a retirement farm for horses in Pottstown, Pa., which currently houses more than 72 former racehorses and “actors” – one of the horses was in the Will Ferrell movie, “Elf” – and her father is a deacon at her hometown church, First Presbyterian.
“I definitely want to keep traveling and working on these kinds of projects,” Shotzberger says. “Wherever I’d be working to do some good in the world is where I’d want to go.”