Alumni Spotlight: Kelly Bahl

A graduate from May of 2015, Kelly Bahl, a major in Ecology and Systematics, landed a Horticulturalist position at Walt Disney World in the Golden Oak Resort at Disney. Bahl provides fresh herbs and produce for the menu of the Markhams restaurant. She grows what they want to use, as well as provides some uncommon options for the restaurant as well. Bahl also gets to help out over at the Land at Epcot in the living laboratory greenhouses, aiding in general maintenance and upkeep of the hydroponic facilities, helping with projects, and giving tours of the facilities. 

Bahl enjoys much about her current position, in being able to get her hands dirty with all of the hands-on work. She loves to see the progress of the crops being grown, or being able to re-plant something in the garden so that it looks the best. However, her favorite thing about working at the Golden Oak Resort is getting to share her passion of horticulture with others, such as when people walk through her garden or when she gives tours to guests in the greenhouses at Epcot. She loves to have opportunities that can further her knowledge in not just the field of horticulture, but with anything and being able to connect with others. 

Bahl says the Biology department at UNI is what got her to where she is today. When she first started UNI as a freshman, she had no idea what she wanted to major in. However, being able to explore gave her the opportunity to major in Ecology and Systematics. According to Bahl, the professors in the Biology department go to great lengths in order to help their students so that they succeed. She also feels she found a second family through the UNI Botanical Center, where she volunteered for a year before receiving a job there. The people that she worked with at the Botanical Center helped her improve her care of plants, and they pushed her to get the position that she currently has. 

Along with working at the Botanical Center, Bahl was a member of the Student Nature Society on campus. Through this, she was able to experience camping trips, river clean ups, meeting guest speakers, and bringing together a group of people who like nature as much as she does. She was also a part of the Black Hawk County Rehabilitation Project, where she got to work with a huge diversity of Iowa wildlife. This ranged from feeding baby raccoons at all hours of the day, getting a coyote to eat properly, or even working with owls to do educational programs. 

Since leaving UNI, Bahl has completed two six month internships through the Agricultural Science Department of Epcot in Walt Disney World, with the second internship being a continuation of the first. The internship included taking care of her own hydroponic greenhouse where she grew tropical food crops from all over the world without soil. She also had the opportunity to educate visitors from around the globe on what was being grown and how they were growing it.  After that internship, she headed back to Iowa where she worked as an animal keeper in the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque. But after only a few months, she was offered a job to return to Disney and assist at the Golden Oak Resort where she currently works. 

In her free time, Bahl likes to go to the parks at Disney World and talk to the guests. When not doing things at Disney, she likes practicing cooking skills, hiking, geocaching, going on walks and star gazing. In the future, Bahl just wants to be able to grow and learn from her job, along with being proud of what she does. She is happy with what she does now, and believes that it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of experiences she had at UNI. She is looking forward to new experiences that she gains from her career.