Published: May 3, 2015
Wendy Duran

While interning at the Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Longmont, Colorado, over the summer of 2013, Wendy Duran realized what she really wanted to do with the rest of her life.

“Helping injured animals is my passion. My dream job would involve working as an avian vet for endangered parrots in South or Central America,” said the University of Colorado Boulder senior, who is graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Duran, 23, grew up in Lafayette, Colorado, in a single-parent home and is the first in her family to graduate from college. In high school, she dreamed of college, but did not think she’d be able to afford it.

Scholarships and financial aid covered her tuition, but she felt “an intense pressure to succeed academically and prove that I deserved the funding I received.”

College proved more difficult than she imagined and she said she felt alone at times, “but I found close friends who supported me and made the campus feel less scary.”

Duran attributes her success at CU-Boulder to her family, which encouraged her to set high expectations for herself, the campus’s Academic Excellence and First Generation programs, and extracurricular activities such as the ecology and evolutionary biology (EBIO) and pre-veterinary clubs on campus.

In addition to Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation, where she has worked every summer for the past three years, she volunteered at the Birds of Prey Foundation, where she cared for injured owls and bald eagles. Duran also interned at an exotic veterinary clinic, spent a summer working for the I Have a Dream Program at Angevine Middle School in Lafayette, Colorado, served as a mentor for the Academic Excellence Program (AEP), and completed a lab research project on African Cichlid fish.

She is passionate about all animals, but birds in particular because they are smarter than people imagine.

“They speak a different language than us mammals, with different expressions and body language, and this makes it hard for people to realize their intelligence and personalities,” Duran said.

Duran said her pet parrot, Izze, can unlock her cage and enjoys teasing her cat.

“I also just love how beautiful they are, how amazing the are in flight, and how they can fill a morning with song,” she said.

Poised to fulfill the first phase of her academic goals, she’s excited to graduate and is ready to take the next step in her life. This summer, she plans to apply to the Colorado State University veterinary school in Fort Collins, Colorado. After that, she’ll turn her sights to, perhaps, working in Latin America. She studied Spanish in high school and college, but admits she has a way to go to achieve fluency.

“I have the basics of Spanish, but I’d really like to be more fluent by the time I go,” she said.

Of her time at CU-Boulder, she is most proud of the Dean’s List Scholarship award she received, which made all those semesters of statistics and physics classes worth the journey. Working with tutors helped her succeed in academically challenging classes and gain a deeper understanding of scientific concepts.

“Anyone can regurgitate information, but—especially in my EBIO classes—I was taught the importance of critical thinking and analysis. These skills can be applied to my future career, no matter what it may be,” she said.