Denise Otto always knew she wanted to work in conservation, but she didn’t know what college could help her achieve that dream.
“I was encouraged to go to East Central College by my counselor at Meramec Community College,” Otto said. “Once she learned I wished to have a career in conservation, she said ECC was the place for me.”
ECC is one of only three community colleges in Missouri to offer a two-year program in Environmental Sciences – the major Otto wanted to explore.
“I enjoyed the small classes and the one-on-one experience with my professors,” Otto said. “I always felt like the staff at ECC cared and wanted me to succeed. I wasn’t simply a ‘student ID number.”
Otto first earned her Associate of Arts-Biology degree in 2002. She later transferred to University of Missouri-St. Louis. Today, she is a fisheries management biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation where she has served for 13 years.
Recently, she visited the place where it all began. Visiting with an ECC ecology class, she educated students about her career in conservation and how her time at ECC helped her succeed.
“We learned about how Mrs. Otto shocks ponds and lakes to test diversity in local waters,” said student Connor Bandre said. “The best part of the experience was actually getting in the water with our lab groups and doing our own studies on the diversity of our pond. Catching the biggest fish was fun as well. “
East Central College serves as a foundation for future student-success. Our faculty and staff enjoy not just building relationships with students, but keeping them with alumni as well. Denise Otto continues to inspire students in the community by sharing her path toward a degree and career in Environmental Sciences. “I truly love what I do for a living and I always credit my education at ECC as the foundation for my success.” Otto said.