Sometimes everything you look for in a school is all there on the same campus, and you don’t have to look too far from home to find it. This is what Natalie Anderson, ’09 found out during her college search process.
"I had my heart set on going to LEC [from when] I started high school, after driving through the campus and happening to run into [Professor of Equine Studies] Dr. Elizabeth Giedt,” Natalie says. Dr. Giedt took some time to answer her questions and show Natalie and her family around the LEC equine facilities, even though they had not scheduled an official campus visit. "[Dr. Giedt’s] knowledge and enthusiasm for the [equine studies] program, along with the campus itself, the classes I was looking for, and the location near home made it the only program I applied to when looking at colleges.”
Natalie started her studies at Lake Erie in 2005, and eventually declared a major in equine teacher/trainer and a minor in equine entrepreneurship, a popular combination for students who are looking to go into the equine industry as instructors, but are also intent on acquiring some business or entrepreneurial experience as well. The Cuyahoga Falls native did not settle for just being a part of one of the most demanding programs on campus, however. She was also actively involved with the Christian Fellowship program, as well as the Intercollegiate Combined Training Association Club (ICTA).
"I also participated in the equine-focused study tour to Germany and Austria, which added an amazing series of experiences to my life,” Natalie says. "Being able to visit a number of the studs as well as the Spanish Riding School, brought so much of what I had learned to life, and even now helps me relate to other professionals in the industry.”
After her graduation in 2009 Natalie joined the LEC admissions staff, and she spent a year working with prospective students who were searching for that perfect school, just as she did four years earlier. "I joined the admissions team in the hopes of helping other students find that same desire and excitement for the school that I had the day I met Dr. Giedt.” Soon afterwards, however, Natalie was eager to return to the equine world. In 2010 she began volunteering with a local equine rehabilitation center until she landed a position as an instructor with Cairn O’Mount at Radnor Hunt Stables in Malvern, Pa., right outside of Philadelphia.
In the spring of 2012 Natalie made yet another move across states to join the team at Mustang Leadership Partners LLC, a non-profit program founded in 2009 that focuses on the protection and preservation of the American Mustang. The program is located in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Natalie serves as lead instructor for their Girls’ School. The school is a weekly camp that allows students from the local Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, Tennessee’s first all-girls public charter school, to participate in various activities and riding classes, while at the same time they "develop, practice, and improve relationship skills, responsibility, social accountability, self-awareness, and self-confidence—all of which are mirrored in the Mustang’s behavior.”
Natalie credits her experience at Lake Erie College with her success in the equine world. "My time at LEC helped prepare me for this position by teaching me the importance of professionalism, as well as helping me gain the knowledge that leads to confidence as an instructor,” she says. She still remembers many of her experiences at LEC with warm feelings.
"My favorite memories of LEC involve the people who came to be family in my life, and the many long nights of studying and supporting one another. Anytime you have a large group of opinionated and strong-willed horse people in the same room it can be difficult for them to work together, but in my experience we learned to respect each other’s opinions, even if we did not agree with them,” she says. "Learning that mutual respect for one another is what helps keep professional relationships together even now.”As a successful alum of the College, Natalie also has some words of wisdom for prospective and current students. "Make the most of the opportunities you are offered through the school. As with any college, it is what the students invest that will enrich their lives, and LEC is no different,” she says. "If you are willing to invest time and energy in those programs that interest you, and in making personal progress by choosing internships that challenge you, and [you] open your mind to the possibilities and ideas around you, there is no limit to the wealth of knowledge, experience and friendship you will find.”