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Woman in a white jumper standing in front of a bunch of taxidermied animals behind glass cases. Text at the top says "Conservation Fund Conference Center"

Gillian Glessman

Mighty Oak Monday: Gillian Glessman

Major: Conservation Biology
Hometown: Henrico, Virginia
Class of ’25

Gillian Glessman was the kind of kid who searched for bugs under rocks and took home every stray animal in the neighborhood.  As she got older, National Geographic documentaries drove her curiosity in science. In high school, she participated in an outstanding veterinary program, where she explored different aspects of animal science, including wildlife and pathology. But when it came time to look for a college, she was dismayed to find that she had few chances to pursue her childhood dream of conservation biology in her home state.

Joy soon replaced disappointment. “When I heard about ESF— the land and the opportunities, I was really excited, because up until then, school, nature, and the environment were separate entities in my mind. Here at ESF, we have our own forest!”

While Gillian is very interested in the medical aspect of her studies, she’s not sure she wants to go to vet school. In fact, Gillian has a special talent for sparking a connection between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom in a different way: art. When she was 17, she was a semi-finalist in the international 2021 Science Without Borders® Challenge for her painting Mother Mangrove. Over the summer, she taught a class at an animal shelter in her hometown. “I brought art and science to the kids, helping them with their crafts while incorporating the knowledge I’d learned at ESF.”

Says Glessman, “I care deeply about what I study. ESF inspires me to create art, give back to my community, and seek out opportunities to share my knowledge. Without what I learned at ESF I would have stayed in my home state with few opportunities to make the kind of difference I can now that I'm here. Your generous support pushed me to take a chance on a school far from home, where I received a more meaningful and higher-quality education than I ever knew was possible.  I'm so grateful that you made it possible for me to be here.”

Learn more about ESF’s Conservation Biology program.