Team Fanimal

Carol Kline

Carol Kline is the founder of Fanimal. Through working as a tourism professor in North Carolina, U.S., Carol had the privilege of collaborating with many farming families who wish to develop tourism on their farm as a means to provide extra income and to convey the importance of food production and rural lifestyles. Today she teaches a course on Animals, Tourism, & Sustainability and her research agenda is focused entirely on animals, which intersects with tourism and hospitality quite naturally. She launched Fanimal in 2018 to further satisfy her thirst for animal-related knowledge, her desire to network with animal-focused people, her wish help others find satisfaction by bringing animals into their life and careers, but most of all to be a part of something bigger for the betterment of animal treatment.

Morgan Ackerman

Morgan Ackerman is a senior at Appalachian State University and is in the Hospitality and Tourism program. Morgan is interested in sustainable tourism and wildlife conservation. She became passionate about these things after taking a volunteer tourism trip to Costa Rica, where she worked with sea turtles and other wildlife. In Costa Rica, she realized the importance of conservation and how it is possible through a career in tourism. She is looking forward to learning more and one day teaching others about animals in a way that is ethical, sustainable, and promotes a feeling of social responsibility for our environment.

RJ Bergman

RJ Bergman is a recent graduate of Appalachian State University and currently resides in Raleigh, NC. His interests in animals started with his pets growing up and frequent visits to zoos. RJ has a strong passion for music, politics, and tourism, and he hopes to shape his conversations about animals in this light.

Nichol Bizjak

Nichol Bizjak graduated from Appalachian State University in the fall of 2016. She spent most of her adolescent summers in Pennsylvania with her family, enjoying and learning the tough, but very rewarding work revolved around farm life. It was at this young age where she found herself intrigued with the immense impact animals have on our daily lives. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management, she moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue a career in the events field. Nichol currently works for a nonprofit as a meeting and conference coordinator. In her free time, Nichol enjoys pet sitting, urban hiking, traveling, discovering local and sustainable eateries around D.C. and last but not least, learning new things about the animal world, including Fanimal!

Kalie Gorham

Kalie Gorham is a current senior at Appalachian State University. She is majoring in Public Relations, with a double minor in Sociology, and Hospitality and Tourism Management. Kalie has an invested interest in social justice issues and her concerns also extend to the animal realm. Kalie comes from a long line of animal lovers, her interest in animals started at a very young age. Her fascination with animals was ignited by Animal Planet’s “The Crocodile Hunter”; and since then her curiosity and sense of responsibility toward animals only continues to grow.

Ryan Merritt

Ryan Merritt designed the Big Cat infograph series and is a fellow fan of animals. Growing up in the Midwest along the Mississippi, he was always intrigued with native species, especially aquatic life. Ryan is now working in the park and recreation industry on environmental education initiatives to help communities understand their personal responsibility in creating a sustainable environment. He is looking forward to future contributions to the Fanimal mission!

C.J. Mitchell

C.J. Mitchell brings a passion for empowering everyday people to the Fanimal team. As a Special Projects Coordinator, she provides keen insights into accomplishing Fanimal’s goals. She spearheaded the pre-launch awareness raising campaign, assisted in multiple video projects, developed the pre-launch landing page, and put out numerous fires along the way. She currently works as a planning technician for a private design firm and holds a B.S. in Recreation Management from Appalachian State University.

Hannah Phillips

Hannah Phillips is a contributor of written work and idea generation for Fanimal. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality & Tourism Management from Appalachian State University in the fall of 2018. Her love for animals became evident after continuously bringing home new pets for her family. She soon discovered her passion for animals and desire to contribute to animal welfare efforts while taking an Animals, Sustainability & Tourism class in college. During her free time, Hannah enjoys reading, spending time outdoors, volunteering, and watching animal rehabilitation videos. Her dream is to assist in saving the elephants and pursue a lifestyle filled with animals.

Matthew Raynor

Matthew Raynor is a contributor through graphics, research, and written works. He has loved animals since childhood, and hopes to continuously expand his knowledge about them. Matt is currently an Appalachian State University as an undergraduate student in the Hospitality and Tourism Management program. Upon graduation he plans to pursue a double masters in Business Administration and College Student Development. Though neither of these fields have a direct relationship to animals he is certain that he will maintain a relationship with the animal welfare community.

Heather Rubright

Heather Rubright has had a love for animals since she was a kid, having grown up with a variety of pets, from hamsters and guinea pigs to dogs and cats. She loves working behind the scenes with Fanimal by assisting with the strategic plan, writing, and providing monthly content for the website. She currently works as a Marketing Assistant for a local CVB and holds Bachelor degrees in Psychology and Sociology and Masters degrees in Business and Sustainable Tourism.

Jenna Samsel

Jenna is a senior at Appalachian State University and will be graduating in December of 2019 with a BSBA in Hospitality and Tourism Management. Her love for animals began at a young age when she started volunteering with a dog rescue in Charlotte, North Carolina. More recently, Jenna enjoyed working with sea turtles and teaching educational programs to children at a state park nature center on the coast of South Carolina. She hopes to combine her passions of education, marine conservation, and tourism in her future career path.

Santino Thorton

Santino Thornton is an outdoor professional. He works with people, sharing experiences and informing guests about environmental and animal practices and policies. Educating people on the do’s and don’ts. He found his love for animals when he met a stray dog outside his house as a child and fell in love with her. He soon adopted her and named her Ginger. He has since found himself working directly and indirectly with animals in the outdoor setting.