By: Athletic Communications Student-Assistant Cannon Dees '20
According to ncaa.org, "The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) represents the Division III student-athlete voice in the Division III governance structure by reviewing legislation, identifying significant student-athlete issues, implementing national student-athlete based initiatives, encouraging community outreach and enhancing Division III student-athlete involvement in and understanding of Division III in general."
As part of the effort to enhance the all-around student-athlete experience, the National SAAC Committee was created, consisting of student-athletes from around the nation. Senior women's golfer Hannah Durst (Madison) was selected to not only represent Baldwin Wallace on the Division III committee, but the entire Ohio Athletic Conference as well.
"My role with SAAC is to be a liaison between the NCAA, student-athletes and athletic departments," she said. "It is also my job to be informed and help provide information and insights to guide in the decision-making process."
One of the ways Durst stays connected with the Division III SAAC throughout the year is the annual NCAA convention. Here, she is able to meet and network with athletes, Athletic Directors and University Presidents from all divisions. This is also the time the committee members will vote on NCAA legislation, and the Division III committee will host their Unified Special Olympics event.
"The NCAA Conventions are a really cool experience," Durst said. "I have attended two over my three years with National SAAC and I'll have one more in January, which will be my last time serving on the committee. The experience I've gained has been invaluable as I've learned so much about myself as a person and student-athlete."
While Durst is passionate about student-athlete experiences, the biology major's career aspirations lie amongst animals as she looks for a job at an Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited zoo. Since the fall of 2019, she has been interning with the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo as part of the Wilderness Trek department. In this role, she has been shadowing and helping other keepers with caring for the animals, such as preparing their diets, creating enrichment, cleaning their habitats, training the animals and monitoring their health and well-being. Due to COVID-19, her duties have been paused indefinitely, but will resume once she receives the clearance to return.
"I've loved animals ever since I was little, so working full-time at a zoo is the ultimate goal," she mentioned. "From my role with the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, I've gained a lot of self-discipline and hard-working habits. I was getting up at 6:00 AM, working at the zoo for six hours and then driving back to campus for golf practice. While it was tough staying up with work, school, golf and a social life, seeing how happy the animals were with an enrichment toy or learning a new skill or command was so rewarding and made all the hard work worth it in the end. I can't wait to go back."
For now, the animals have to wait for their future zookeeper. Durst plans to continue her crazy schedule next fall as she returns to campus to finish out her golf career while pursuing a degree in sustainability.