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York College Alum Proves Having a Strong Foundation is Key to Any Career

Shawn Fauth at his job

Shawn Fauth ’10 is proof that changes aren’t a bad thing—and that having a strong foundation to guide you through is invaluable.

The York College alumnus, who now works as a Life Support Engineer for the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, graduated from the College with a B.S. in Biology. However, he started his college career focused on animal husbandry.

“It was really nice that I was able to participate in the senior thesis program. I did a lot of field work with Dr. Kleiner in the Ecology Department, but the entire program let me test out different things,” Fauth says. “I knew I wanted to work with animals, but what did I want to do?”

A senior-year internship with the National Aquarium helped guide Fauth’s focus within the Biology field. He liked his initial internship so much that he decided to volunteer there, transitioning to a seasonal aid—someone who fills in for various departments within the Aquarium.

“I eventually worked my way into a full-time career as an Aquarist, which is basically a zookeeper for fish,” he explains. “It's taking care of animals, and I've been here for a little over 12 years.”

Now, as a Life Support Engineer, Fauth is responsible for maintaining the filtration equipment at the Aquarium. He uses much of the foundational biology education he received at York College to complete his duties.

“I maintain our filtration equipment—doing water changes, maintaining pumps and filters, etc.,” he says. “It’s a bit more of a mechanical position now, so a lot of chemistry and physics are involved at this point.”

As he was unsure about a career choice when he first entered college, Fauth credits YCP with giving him plenty of opportunities to explore and figure out where his biggest interests lie.

“At YCP, I did have an opportunity to try many different things,” he says. “There were a lot of different opportunities that I had besides science-related ones. I did activities with Habitat for Humanity. I was active in some other groups at the College. I think being exposed to a wide range of things really sets you apart.”

In addition to exploring wide-ranging interests, Fauth believes that a strong foundation is the key to any career, and that York College gave him that with his Biology degree.

“I think I got a solid foundation at YCP; it was very broad,” he adds. “We had a broad range of subjects when I was in school—we covered everything from your basic Stream 101 all the way up through Organic, with its more advanced concepts, Microbiology and even Physics—understanding how water moves through a pipe, understanding what size pump you need to put on a system in order to get a good turnover rate.”

He also believes that his internship and experiential learning opportunities gave him a competitive edge.

“As a past student intern, I highly recommend the program,” Fauth says. “It's tough to separate yourself from the crowd. Any experiences that you do, don't discount them. Pretty much everybody in this field starts as an intern or a volunteer.”

He recommends that current students, whether in Biology or not, explore as well. Being well-rounded no matter your career or major is critical, he says.

“Definitely keep an open mind. Try new things,” he adds. “When I originally went to school, I thought I was going to be out on a research vessel doing something along those lines. Don't go through it with blinders. If something seems interesting, check it out, even if it's not 100 percent related to what you're studying currently.”