We’ve been fortunate to have so many accomplished and interesting people walk through our doors. Every month, IEA highlights one of our program alumni to let the community know what they’ve been up to. This month, we caught up with 2007 CDB alumni, Caitlin Andrews.
What are some educational, personal and professional highlights and/or accomplishments of yours since graduating from high school?
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 14 years since I was selected as a CDB Scholar! I graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 2012 and went on to study biology at Harvard. Studying animal behavior was my lifelong dream, so it was kind of like being shot out of a cannon: I filled up my schedule with classes on animal behavior, cognition, ecology, and conservation. I also had some incredible opportunities to participate in research, working with gray parrots, dogs, and a variety of primates, including spider monkeys in Mexico for my senior thesis! Outside of class, one of my favorite ways to relax and unwind was playing percussion with The Harvard Undergraduate Drummers (THUD).
After graduating in 2016, I was fortunate to receive a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to attend the University of Cambridge for my PhD. Hopping across the pond, I was immediately immersed in the incredible culture of the UK – but I didn’t stay for long! My research took me to New Zealand, where I worked with an international team to help improve the conservation of hihi, a threatened bird found nowhere else in the world. One of the highlights of my PhD was taking part in a reintroduction project which established a new population of hihi – only the seventh in the world!
Due to the pandemic, I finished my PhD from home in Massachusetts this past January. I’m hoping to embark on another conservation project soon. But, for now, I’m enjoying some time to breathe and recharge. For me, this mostly means hanging out with my 14-year-old pit bull, JsuJsu, who has very patiently put up with me being away for the last four years!
What is a favorite IEA/CDB memory?
Every CDB seminar was special, but a personal favorite was from one year when the seminar theme related to celebrating different personality types. Everyone took a Myers-Briggs personality test before the seminar. Once we were finally gathered in the conference room, Bonnie and Betsy asked us to move to one side of the room if we scored an “I” on the first portion of the test and the other side of the room if we scored an “E.” I lined up silently with my fellow “I’s,” awaiting further instruction, while the “E’s” chatted noisily on the other side of the room. It was then that Betsy revealed that “I” stood for introvert and “E” for extrovert. Everyone burst out laughing – suddenly, the distinct behaviors of each side of the room made a lot of sense!
We had some truly eye-opening conversations at that seminar. For so long, I had been that quiet kid in class who the teachers inevitably had to ask to speak up. I remember being super nervous in my CDB interview, thinking that I would never get the scholarship because I was too quiet or shy. But, all throughout my time as a scholar, including at that seminar, I felt that I was appreciated for who I was. I didn’t need to be loud or bold to be appreciated and understood by CDB staff and my fellow scholars. We were all celebrated for the things that made us unique.
What words of wisdom would you pass on to current IEA students?
It gets said a lot, but it’s true – follow your passions! And, if you’re not sure what your passions are, keep exploring! I was lucky to know early on what I wanted to do for a career, but I have always explored new hobbies, holding onto some and letting go of others as I figure out what feeds my soul. Life is much more fulfilling when you enjoy what you do, and you will be able to give so much more to the world if you’re following your bliss!