Recent graduate fulfills lifelong dream of working at SeaWorld

October 31, 2018

When Zach Millender (’17) arrives at work each morning, he’s greeted with an icy chill and some 300 hungry beaks.

“Every day I get to go and work with penguins … in Texas,” he said. “And it is the most amazing thing.”

Millender is one of Liberty’s first zoo and wildlife biology graduates and now works as an animal care specialist at SeaWorld San Antonio. He helps maintain a habitat with approximately 200 penguins and 100 puffins, ensuring the animals are properly fed and cared for. He also helps hand-raise chicks.

“I get to interact with these animals that very few people get to see outside of places like our facility,” Millender said. “I get to know the individuality of all those animals. It is pretty insane to think about how there are so many birds and each is unique; they all interact in different ways.”

The position isn’t always glamorous, he said. “There is a lot of heavy lifting and smells — a lot of smells.”

But he calls it “100 percent my dream job.”

Since childhood, Millender wanted to work at SeaWorld as a dolphin trainer. His current position allows opportunities for future growth and for working with other species.

“I have a very long path that I can follow at SeaWorld,” Millender said. “It is a really cool place to be. … It is such a high-quality facility. SeaWorld has set the standard of animal care for a long time, and it makes me really proud to be a part of that and to help move it forward.”

Millender said he appreciates the support he received while pursuing his B.S. in Zoo & Wildlife Biology, offered under the Department of Biology & Chemistry.

“Liberty is a huge part of the reason that I am here at SeaWorld,” he said. “Being in an environment that fostered my passion, where I was told, ‘You are capable of doing this, we want to make it a smooth process for you, and we want to prepare you and equip you to best get there,’ made a huge difference for me.”

Through class assignments and an internship at a dog training facility, Millender gained the experience he needed to start his career.

“The faculty saw that working at SeaWorld was my goal and helped me to refine the things that I was learning … and craft that into a stepping stone,” he said.

Millender also refined other skills that he didn’t even realize were critical to success as a zoologist.

“It is really important working with animals to be adaptable and flexible,” he said. “The ability to learn quickly on my feet is an important skill that Liberty helped me learn.”

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