Like so many people who love animals, Cummings School alumna Ariel Lefkovits originally thought she wanted to be a veterinarian. But after graduating in 2013 from Franklin & Marshall College, where she majored in animal behavior, she realized she was not cut out for vet school.
While trying to figure out what she wanted to do, Lefkovits worked as an animal care technician for the ASPCA and cared for dogs at a doggie daycare. She considered becoming a dog trainer or animal behaviorist but decided against it.
Fearing that there might not be a place for her in the animal world, she switched gears and pursued a career in physical therapy. “I eventually realized that physical therapy was simply not my passion and that I wanted to be involved with animals again,” says Lefkovits. “I was stuck with what I felt was a huge conundrum at the time, which was how the heck do I work with animals if it’s not in veterinary medicine?”
When her sister happened to come across information about the Cummings School’s MS in Animals and Public Policy (MAPP) program, she immediately sent the information to Lefkovits. At the MAPP open house, Lefkovits says she had an “aha” moment. “A light bulb went off above my head and the clouds parted. I truly felt like I had found something that was perfect for me that could lead me into a career where I would be helping animals. It was overwhelming and wonderful to realize that there were so many different avenues that you could take.”
Lefkovits graduated from the program in 2020 and landed a job with the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International (SPCAI) as the shelter program coordinator. She worked with the director of programs on securing grants for animal welfare organizations all over the world.
Currently, Lefkovits is volunteering with the Humane Society of the United States as a humane policy leader. Her career goal is to work for a nonprofit that is looking to advance legislation on a federal or state level to improve animal welfare and protection, whether it be for farm animals, domestic pets, or wildlife. At the moment, she is involved in getting a law passed in New Jersey to ban cruel confinement practices for mother pigs and their babies. “There is a lot of data and support from people within the industry that tells us that it’s just as profitable to allow a more humane life and create a more humane system for those animals,” she says.
Lefkovits credits the MAPP program for honing the skills she uses in her work every day and for helping her channel her love of animals into working on their behalf.
“I cannot say enough about how thrilling and fascinating it was,” she says. “It constantly confirmed that I had found the right niche for myself.”