Q&A with Yolonda Bradshaw, ACES ’18

While an undergraduate, Yolonda studied wildlife behavior, conservation, and rehabilitation in South Africa. She now looks forward to graduate work, ultimately hoping to become an animal behavioral specialist who helps animals who have survived disaster, abuse, and neglect.
Interviewed by Abigail Bobrow

How did you choose Illinois?

My senior year of high school I applied to five universities. I was accepted to all of them, but Illinois was my first choice. I knew that I loved the campus, as I attended science camp here as a young girl. I wanted to stay within the Midwest area, and Illinois has one of the best animal sciences programs in the nation. What was really my deciding factor—money. With Illinois Promise, I was able to attend the University of Illinois on full scholarship for my entire four years. This meant the world to me as I would not have been able to attend any other way.

How did you decide to pursue animal behavioral sciences?

I knew that I wanted a career that I’d be passionate about. I found a way to blend my love for animals and psychology and discovered the field of animal behavior.

You were able to study overseas twice during your time at Illinois. How did those experiences impact you?

These experiences have changed the way I view people, culture, and history. I have been able to physically and mentally place myself into another culture and that has humbled me the most. I can connect with others on a deeper level and understand what life is like in other places in the world. I am more sensitive to cultural differences and value my opportunities more than before.

Can you describe what it is like to work with animals that have had traumatic experiences?

It is extremely rewarding to work with these animals. To know that all your patience, love, and hard work went into helping an animal overcome barriers to live a happier life pushes me to continue being an advocate and resource for my community.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

I am continuing my education in the fall to pursue my master’s degree. I will be studying animal sciences with a focus in animal shelter behavior. Ultimately, I would like to become a certified animal behaviorist and work for the ASPCA’s behavior rehabilitation center or a similar organization.