Caele Gardella

Wildlife Biology major Caele Gardella embraced all that Lees-McRae had to offer

Caele Gardella, a senior in the Wildlife Biology program, started her education at Green Mountain College, a small private college in Poultney, Vermont. In 2019, Green Mountain permanently closed down, and Gardella had to find a new school to complete her degree.  

After researching a few schools, Gardella was drawn to Lees-McRae, both because of its strong science programs and because its small size allows students and faculty to build a close-knit community.  

“The Wildlife Biology program here is unbelievable,” she said. “The professors are keen on making student success the best it can be.”  

Throughout her time at Lees-McRae, Gardella has made the most of the opportunities available here, from attending events and participating in clubs, to taking advantage of the resources at the Burton Center for Student Success, to conducting active wildlife research alongside Assistant Professor Michael Osbourn. As a Wildlife Biology major and a lover of the outdoors, Gardella spent much of her time in the Elk Valley Preserve, where she studied different ecological aspects like bird mobbing and salamander behavior after reproduction. Even when she didn’t have a class at the preserve, she would go down with her friends to check for snakes or amphibian eggs.  

“I go out to the preserve all the time, rain or shine,” she said. “I was out there every other day during summer clinicals. I love being in nature. I feel like I can be myself and explore the things that I want to explore.”  

Gardella also completed an internship with the Alaskan moose calf rehabilitation and release organization Moose Mamas prior to coming to Lees-McRae. The hands-on experiences of working with wildlife and the skills she developed while undertaking research projects will serve her well in whatever career she pursues after graduation.  

Get to know Caele

What is your favorite spot on campus? 

When I first came here, campus was so active. Everybody wanted to go out and do things and it was distracting, so I used to take my homework to the field station. The field station didn’t have internet, so I would download everything, then do my homework out there. I also used to hammock at the river and field station and stay out there for hours at a time. If people couldn’t find me on campus, they’d know where to go.

How did Lees-McRae prepare you for life after graduation?  

Lees-McRae taught me how to be who I am today. The college has supported me as I have strived to be an independent, hard-working, loving individual who is really passionate and able to speak out about how I feel. I’ve been able to open up to professors, and use the resources from Career and Life Planning and the Alumni House.

What campus activities did you participate in?  

I’ve done of lot of things through The Den. I always find things to do. I love 555. It’s a church service, but it is the coolest thing. I’m actually an atheist but I’m leaning more into finding out what’s out there. The way (College Chaplain) Ted talks is like a conversation. You read things from scripture, and it relates to life.

What was one of your favorite classes?  

Wilderness Literature. I love that class. 

What will you miss about Lees-McRae? 

Community, structure, professors. I love the professors here. They actually know you and care about you.

What advice do you have for incoming students?  

Open up to people. From a high-school perspective, going to college is so scary. You’re going to be around new people, but it’s okay. You will never be lost. Instructors and other students will help you. Also, if you want to be the best student you can be, you have to push for it. You have to do things that are outside of your comfort zone. If you’re a Business major, go down to the field station and look for salamanders. Take the time to explore and do things you might not have considered doing before.

What does Lees-McRae mean to you?  

Lees-McRae is like my home. Even though I’m a graduating senior, I’m still a student. I’m still a Bobcat, and I’m going to be a Bobcat forever. That’s the coolest feeling. I know that if I have any questions, Lees-McRae is there for me.

By Emily WebbApril 30, 2021