Student Spotlight: Nina Stively, Shelter Director

Nina Stively, Shelter Director

Student Spotlight

I couldn’t have found a better program for me; it met my desire to be a better shelter director.



  • Education: Includes economics and non-profit management
  • Experience: Spent significant amount of time fundraising for non-profits
  • Shelter Experience: Cumulatively, Nina has more than 10 years of experience working in shelters. Nina was a Director of Community Outreach at Espanola Valley Humane Society and is currently volunteering at a shelter in Virginia. This particular shelter had to prioritize its spay and neuter program, conducting between 4,000-5,000 surgeries per year with limited resources.

Why Choose the UF Program?

Nina said, “I couldn’t have found a better program for me; it met my desire to be a better shelter director.” The PetSmart Charities© Online Shelter Medicine Program fit perfectly with her background.

Nina learned about the program through a post on Facebook. An ex-boyfriend’s wife was working in student support services at UF and posted information about the program.

Because Nina had worked in shelters for more than a decade, she wanted a program that wasn’t exclusively for DVMs; she also didn’t want a program that was so easy that she could teach it. This program met both of those requirements and literally seemed tailored for what she was looking for in a master’s degree program.


Here is how Nina summarized her experience in her first course toward completing UF’s non-profit master’s degree:

  • “It was very encouraging to have others in the course who understand the realities of working in a shelter environment and refreshing to have people who truly comprehend the real issues and could discuss how best to bridge the short-term and long-term professional standards in shelter.”
  • “Everyone is friendly. So far the courses are really enjoyable and valuable. Good standards, and standards are important. This is taught at a professional and high level.”
  • “The TAs have been very supportive in helping with medical terms and other medical-related information.”
  • “Dr. Griffin’s expertise and research in dealing with distressed animals and how to socialize them is really interesting.”

Not a DVM

Nina was apprehensive at first about not being a DVM, but the honest, open environment made her understand that both the professors and TAs wanted her to succeed. Nina bought a dictionary with veterinary terms for non-veterinarians and another one tailored for veterinarians. If there were medical terms she didn’t understand, she would look them up in both.

Applying what she learned

The shelter where she currently works has been welcoming and they are actively looking for ways to improve. Based on her recent education, she has a hands-on opportunity to support the shelter’s Director of Behavior. The shelter where Nina currently volunteers is building a new facility, so Nina is also using her new knowledge to contribute on the new shelter’s design, including how to deal with cleaning and isolation requirements.

Back to Student Spotlight