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Reflections on Learning and Experience

Stories about Students and their AST Experiences

Experience Abroad: Missions Trip to Africa

Experience at the Zoo

Shana Stine Experiences Africa


Howard Kang in Africa

The AST Office has access to a number of opportunities that allow UIS students to travel and work abroad to earn academic credit. One student took advantage of such an opportunity and found a great reward from his experience. UIS business administration student Howard Kang performed his AST during the summer of 2008 with New Missions Systems International, a missions group that allowed him to travel and work in the African nation of Kenya. Howard spent over 2 months living and working in a Maasi village, where he taught 5th grade students and worked with the native people in building their community. His AST was a ‘life-changing experience” that gave him the opportunity to experience both working as a team and a chance for self-discovery.

For Howard, the experience allowed him to learn about himself and find value in things that we may often overlook in our modern society. “Being so far removed from America, I really just had time to learn about myself and what I wanted to do, to find the things that were important to me. Now that I’ve been there, my whole direction in life has changed.” As one can imagine, the African landscape doesn’t offer the comforts often found in modern America. The lack of comforts Howard noticed were a lack of electricity, running water and other basic amenities that many of us take for granted. Although it was challenging , the reward of  overcoming these challenges and seeing your hard work come to fruition made the effort worthwhile. Maasi village people.

Howard is currently planning to join New Missions Systems after his anticipated graduation May 2009. For other students seeking to do an AST, Howard encourages them to find an interest and once you have “to hold nothing back, give all of yourself to serve.”  His story is proof that life-changing experiences can come even while in far-off places.

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Mindy Weaver with Canadian Lynx

In the Fall of 2007, UIS Biology major Mindy Weaver performed her AST with the Scoville Zoo in Decatur, Illinois. The following is an interview highlighting her AST experiences.
Why did you choose to do an AST?  I wanted to gain animal care experience and earn credit toward my degree.
What were some interesting things that you were able to do?  I learned how to with various animals including Cheetahs, Wolves, camels, birds, monkeys, reptiles and domestic farm animals.
What were some professional skills you learned that could be applied to your future career choices?  I learned how to provide daily care to all species.  I learned how to administer medication.  I learned how to provide enrichment to animals in order to make their lives in captivity better.  I learned how to prepare diets.  I learned how to educate the public about animals and conservation.
Most exciting?  Our zoo has several animals that were hand raised.  This allows us to go in with the animals and interact with them.  I also joined the American Association of Zookeepers.  This group helps save endangered species.
What were some challenges you faced?  I worked as a visitor service employee for 8 years before moving over to the zookeeper side. The two positions were very different.
How did AST help you to decide on your career goals?  I knew exactly what my goals were, but without the AST I may not have been given the opportunity to move.
What was most rewarding from the experience?  After my AST was complete, one zookeeper moved on to another zoo and I was offered that full time swing keeper position.
What advice would you give to a student looking into the AST program?  It is a great program!! It not only helps you earn elective credit, but it may be the one thing that gets you the full time position you are looking for. The AST I did at UIS made my dreams possible!
What are your future plans?  I will stay at Scovill Zoo for several years to gain full time zookeeper experience.  Once I have that, my possibilities are endless. I could move to almost any city and find a zookeeper position.
Any last words?  Even though I put many years in at Scovill Zoo, I had no animal care experience.  I only had customer service experience.  The AST I did at UIS made my dreams possible!


Shana Stine, a liberal studies major at UIS, spent a part of her summer last year volunteering for an orphanage in Kenya. Shana has now created Jump for Joel to assist the children with food, education and more. She is using Project AST 301 to earn acadecmic credit while organizing Jump for Joel. Read about Shana and her experience here:

Contact the AST program to find out how to create a Project AST.

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Leadership lived

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