SDSU grad takes role as “wild guide”

John Schmidt Web Editor

She first wanted to be a counselor and now SDSU alumna Stephanie Arne is the new host of Mutual of Omaha’s webisode series Wild Kingdom Wild Guide. 

Arne came to SDSU from Pierre with intentions of getting a degree in biology. 

“Biology could take me in different directions,” Arne said. 

As time passed, Arne grew to love education, sociology and development. Which then transformed her biology major into a human development and family studies major. 

In her final year at SDSU, Arne studied abroad in Africa, which sparked interest in working with animals and education. “[Studying in Africa] really changed my mindset, I could use my degree for more things than I could ever imagine,” Arne said. 

Graduating from SDSU in 2005, Arne took an unpaid internship at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb. where she designed programs, and wrote education curriculums for patrons. 

Once she started speaking publicly, Arne felt that she needed to be more educated about all the animals the zoo has. With this mindset, Arne worked with all kinds of animals at the zoo to get to know more about them. 

Arne would be shoveling animal feces while asking questions to get as much information about the animals as possible from the people she spoke to. 

From Omaha, Arne went to the Diego Zoo, Sea World and the Honolulu Zoo Society. She has also traveled to Africa, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea to garner new information about the animals she loves. 

While in Hawaii in June of 2012, Arne wanted to host her own show and a local anchor helped her set up a video resume. It wasn’t until the first week of March in 2013 until an ex-coworker from the Henry Doorly Zoo told Arne about Mutual of Omaha. 

She submitted a video, along with 400 other applicants in March, and waited to hear if she made the top 12 in May then the final three were flown in to Omaha in June. 

“[The contest] was very nerve-racking,” Arne said. “[There were] 13 days of annoying people for votes.”

 She didn’t hear that she won until July 15 – making the process four months overall. 

400 people competing for one opportunity yielded competitive behavior from only friends and family, according to Arne. 

“We all wanted it bad, but in the end we were like minded people that saw the world and were just excited for each other to have received this opportunity.” 

Arne received support from the Brookings community, the local children’s museum and SDSU, along with people from across the world. 

She received the most worldwide votes compared to other contestants. “I’m a very lucky South Dakotan girl,” Arne said. 

In the competition, Arne competed against a coworker of hers and also against the man she now calls her boyfriend. 

“[I] got my dream job and got an incredible partner as well,” Arne said. 

Arne has completed season one of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Wild Guide which premiered online Nov. 2. She is now working on developing story ideas for season two.  

Arne wishes to come back to SDSU and tell students her story about how a trip to Africa can change your goals and dreams.