Columbus Zoo and Aquarium launches new scholarship program

Submitted story

On Tuesday, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, along with The Wilds, Zoombezi Bay, and Safari Golf Club, announced the establishment of the RISE Scholarship program. The goal of this new program is to increase diversity representation in the zoo field.

According to a study by Zippia, 74.1% of zoo keepers are White. Comparatively, 16.3% are Hispanic or Latino and 4% are Black. There are other disparities in the zoo field such as gender identity/expression and low-income.

The RISE scholarship program provides internship experiences from business to biology to students from a variety of backgrounds, including racial/ethnic groups, gender, and low-income/underserved populations who are underrepresented in the industry.

“We are excited to launch this new program right here in central Ohio. These internships will provide valuable exposure, and we hope spark interest in careers in animal care, conservation education, and related fields. Students will have the opportunity to learn from and work with our talented staff. The end-goal is to inspire these students to join the zoological profession and better reflect the communities we serve,” said Tom Schmid, president and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

When most people think of zoo jobs, they picture a veterinarian or keeper. But it does take a village of people in various roles to keep the daily operations going of a zoo, conservation center, waterpark and golf course. There are a multitude of career paths at all zoos and aquariums such as guest services, IT, finance, nutrition, security, operations, fundraising, community relations and education, horticultural, and much more.

The goal is to remove financial barriers that may be caused by unpaid internships. This program also furthers the zoo’s strategic goal to recruit more underserved and underrepresented candidates into our organization.

“To create access you have to identify barriers and then remove those barriers to create opportunities that are equitable. Our family of parks are for everyone and educational opportunities should be no exception,” said Carman Wirtz, senior vice president of human resources.

Wirtz adds that applications will be reviewed by the Board of Directors DEIAB committee.

Starting this fall, there will be 15 individual scholarships available dedicated to various positions across the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, The Wilds, Zoombezi Bay and Safari Golf Club. Each recipient will receive a $5,000 scholarship (non-animal care internships will be paid biweekly via payroll) to offset expenses or be paid hourly up to $5,000 through the scholarship fund. Students must commit to 12 weeks in animal care internship positions or 240 hours of work in other non-animal areas from September through December.

Students must be 18 years of age and complete the application by Aug. 12. Scholarship information, application and internship descriptions can be found on the zoo’s RISE Scholarship page by visiting

Submitted story

Submitted by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Submitted by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.