Savannah Mary Verdon
B.S., Animal Science, Specialization in Animal Behavior, University of California, Davis, 2015
M.S. in Animals and Public Policy, Tufts University, 2017
Marketing and Development Coordinator, RedRover
What were you doing before entering the MAPP program?
After graduating, I kept my position in doggie daycare (Lead daycare attendant, Grateful Dog Daycare) because I wanted a low-stress job that gave me time to explore internship and volunteer opportunities. I knew I still wanted a career with animals, but I wasn’t quite sure what it would be. I continued to volunteer with my local animal shelter and found an internship as a program coordinator for a monthly mobile veterinary clinic for homeless residents of San Francisco. This opened to my eyes to animal-related issues in local communities, and how volunteer effort can address them. In my spare time, I got heavily involved in cycling because where I’m from in California there are miles upon miles of beautiful bike trails that follow along the American River. I also made a point to spend as much time with my aging dogs as possible.
What aspects of MAPP led to your decision to join the program?
I fell in love with the MAPP program the moment I came across it. Finally there was an advanced degree relevant to animals that wasn’t veterinary medicine or animal behavior research. It focuses primarily on the human-animal bond, which has long been my passion. It was a relief to know that passion could be translated into advanced education and a career.
In what ways do you use your Masters in Animals and Public Policy degree in your current position?
Marketing & Development are really critical areas for any animal-focused non-profit because you need to communicate effectively why the work you’re doing is necessary and valuable in order to get sustained donors and members. Effective communication relies not only on creative and persuasive argument, but also a thorough analysis of your programs’ impact and efficiency. It seems that for every person who wholeheartedly endorses animal advocacy, there are two skeptics. I am finding I rely heavily on what I learned in Communicating Policy Positions with Dr. Rutberg and Public Policy Analysis with Dr. Jackman. On a more personal level, I use the critical thinking skills we developed in Introduction to Animals Ethics with Dr. Maas regularly, and it helps inform the choices I make about my work.
Tell us about your MAPP project or preceptorship. In what ways did it help you form your career goals?
I externed with the Organization for Human-Animal Interaction Research at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. My primary focus while there was data analysis and interpretation and manuscript drafting for a project with Canine Assistants, a national provider of service dogs. We were interested in qualitatively assessing the psychosocial effects of owning a service dog on individuals with physical disabilities, as well as the psychosocial effects on their family members. With my externship work in mind, I wrote my thesis on the barriers to accessing service dogs as therapeutic agents. Considering that the largest barriers are financial and disabilities disproportionately affect those with lower income., I concluded that the status quo is unjust. Social justice is important to me, and I believe human issues are animal issues. Animals suffer when humans do. So, my career goals are focused on supporting people in need and their pets, and promoting the human-animal bond as a source of comfort and resiliency. These are the exact kinds of values that RedRover embodies.
What did you like most about the MAPP program?
My favorite thing about the MAPP program would have to be the seemingly unlimited access to resources. Between the faculty and guest lecturers, you have the opportunity to be in contact with so many different organizations and key figures in animal advocacy. The professors really go out of their way to provide you opportunities for externships or other things you may be interested in. I appreciated how much of a personal interest they took in what mattered to me in my education and career goals. Knowing the things I was most passionate about, they recommended books and other resources that have since helped shape my perspective. Dr. McCobb and Dr. Mueller in particular have become great mentors and allies to me.
Publication: Mobility and medical service dogs: a qualitative analysis of expectations and experiences in Journal of Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, March 25, 2019