Biology major brings a wealth of experience to campus
Kathy Bertram, 45, is a U.S. Air Force (USAF) veteran with tremendous experience as a fitness and yoga trainer, bodybuilder, public speaker, and small business owner, the latter as the owner/instructor of a Sculpt Yoga fitness studio. Kathy is earning her Biology Transfer Pathway A.S. at Inver Hills Community College with plans to graduate in May 2024. She was motivated to seek a college degree by the need to change her career path in a post-pandemic world.
“My emphasis is on animal science,” Kathy said. “After I graduate from Inver, I would like to transfer to the U of M St. Paul campus with the end goal to work in the veterinary field. Perhaps I will keep going and pursue a full degree in veterinary medicine.”
Kathy Bertram: In her own words…
No doubt my work experience does not look like the average person’s. Straight out of high school, I joined the USAF. Truly, the best decision I have ever made in my life. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do and zero interest in school. For me, it was the right fit at the right time.
I was trained as a munitions systems apprentice specializing in the repair, maintenance, storage, and transport of bombs and missiles. While stationed on the island of Okinawa, Japan, I met my husband, Jason. We were married on the island and lived there for another two years. I got out of the military while he stayed in.
We then got stationed at Keelser AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi. While there, I went to the Blue Cliff College of Massage and became a certified massage therapist. I worked that job on and off for about 15 years. I knew that while my husband was serving in the military, we would be moving around quite a bit, and that job was easy for me to transfer.
Once our time in Biloxi came to an end, we moved to Homestead, Florida. My husband parted ways with the military and got a job at a USAF reserve base. I practiced massage therapy working at a spa and also as a self-employed therapist. While we were in the Miami area, I got into a life-changing car accident. As a result of that accident, I had to quit working for a few months and focus on healing.
Also while we were in south Florida, I learned about and got hired by the Next Generation Power Force. A group of athletes who used “feats of strength” as a way to present at school assembly programs. Our message was all about hope and belief in the importance of what you offer to the world. I traveled with the team all over the United States for seven years and did a lot of public speaking.
During my time with the strength team, we got moved back to Mississippi due to my husband’s job. At this point in my life, I had taken a great interest in amateur bodybuilding. I competed at the amateur level for about four years, winning a few local shows.
In 2010, we had the opportunity to move to St Paul, Minnesota. I am originally from Mankato, so I was thrilled to return home. Around the time we moved, I also quit the strength team—it was time for something new. Traveling full-time had gotten exhausting. Due to injuries, I began to practice yoga at CorePower Yoga. After a few months of being a student, I studied to become a teacher. I worked for CPY for just over 10 years. I lead vinyasa, hot, and yoga sculpt along with being part of teacher training programming.
Once the pandemic hit, the studios closed and all the staff was let go. I had about a year to try and figure out my next move. I knew I needed to get out of teaching and into something that would be kind to my body for the long haul. After some time I landed on the Veterinary Technician program at Dakota County Technical College. I never attended an official college—and that was something that had always bothered me. At the ripe old age of 44, I sent in my application to the program. Once accepted, I felt confident that I had made the right call.
After a few months of taking core classes, I realized how much I am interested in biology. Not only was I interested in the subject, I was pretty darn good at it. I have now declared biology as my major at Inver Hills and have set my sights on a four-year degree, two years total between Inver and DCTC, and two years at the U of M.
I am a full-time student—and I fully tip my hat to those who have full-time jobs and families and go to school full-time. I am currently a coach at Orangetheory Fitness on a part-time basis. I am very fortunate to be able to dedicate a decent amount of time to my schoolwork.
I volunteer with MN Pocket Pet Rescue, an animal rescue organization that specializes in small and exotic pets. I not only foster hedgehogs, but also am part of a donation-based nail trim clinic for those who are not comfortable with trimming their pet’s nails. I have been with them for more than four years now, and that experience has become a very bright spot in my life. It’s an amazing rescue that helps place small animals that can go unnoticed and unloved. I have rescued/adopted three of my foster hedgehogs.
More about Kathy…
Originally from Mankato, Minnesota, Kathy graduated from Mankato West High School, Class of 1996. She has been married to her husband, Jason, for 24 years. Jason works for the FAA in Minneapolis. Their family has two Rottweilers, Ike, 7, and Em, 6.
“They are my whole heart,” Kathy said. “I also have four hedgehogs, Rose, Tulip, Spoon, and Petunia. My hogs and dogs keep me busy, but mostly they all keep me smiling. Jason and I do not have children, so the animals fill that role in our lives.”
When she’s not studying, working, and volunteering, Kathy enjoys working out and staying fit.
“Working out is very important to me as it is more than just trying to look good,” she related. “Fitness is how I manage my stress and anxiety. I also train and work with my dogs. I have a female named Em, who I compete with in AKC Dog Agility. Em is my first agility dog, and I struck gold with her. She is ranked in the top five in the country for 20” Rottweilers. We are headed for the AKC Agility Invitational in Orlando, Florida, December 2023.”
Kathy likes activities that include being with her dogs and hedgehogs. “Hiking in the woods or simply walking through the neighborhood will do,” she said. “Most certainly, I enjoy good times with my friends. We love to play the game Phase 10. It’s hard to beat sitting around a fire with some cocktails and chatting the night away.”
Kathy life and family gallery
Kathy and Em completing an agility run in AKC competition
Appearance on Jay Leno…
About 12 years ago, Kathy appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno for the program’s “Kim Possible Thrills” segment. She performed an amazing strength feat, crushing several 7UP cans between her hands:
DCTC Student Writing Competition
While attending DCTC, Kathy participated in the Student Writing Competition 2023, earning honorable mention for her essay submission, “Hidden Celebrity,” which describes her experience on The Tonight Show.
One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:
Kathy Bertram • Q & A
What do you like best about your Biology classes at Inver so far?
The process of learning how I learn. My very first semester I was totally lost. Education has sure changed since the last time I was in a classroom way back in 1996.
What advice would you give working adults thinking about attending college full-time?
Do not be afraid to ask for help. Get a tutor if you need one. Get ready for things to change—the importance of finding balance can not be understated.
How have your years of experience as a yoga instructor and public school assembly speaker helped you in your college coursework?
I am not nervous to speak up in class and ask questions. I know for many people speaking up or speaking publicly is horrifying. I do not have a problem with it.
Three words that describe you as an Inver Hills student:
DRIVEN. STRESSED. CURIOUS.
What do you love most about yoga/fitness ?
I have found the healthiest way for me to manage stress and anxiety is through physical fitness. I love the mental challenge it offers as well as the confidence it can give.
What inspired you to excel at strength training?
What has inspired me to excel at strength training is how it offers you the chance to not only change your body for the better, but your mind as well. There are just too many life parallels between what you do in the gym and how you live your life.
What advice would you give people thinking about starting their own business?
Do your research, know your market, ask for help.
What is your favorite memory from your time in the U.S. Air Force?
So many wonderful memories. Mostly, it’s the memories of the guys I worked with. At the time the career field was 90 percent male-dominated. As one of the only ladies in the mix, I had to work extra hard to earn the respect of my male counterparts.
Once I did, I felt like I had acquired a big pile of brothers who would do anything for me. The most loyal, the funniest, the most frustrating, and wonderful people ever.
Three words that describe you as a fitness instructor:
MOTIVATING. FUN. COMMUNITY.
What do you like best about AKC dog agility?
What I love about dog agility is the amazing connection I have with my dog. It’s a special relationship that is only created from working together. It’s more special than anything else. When it’s just me and my dog in the ring, everything goes away and it feels like magic. She needs me and I need her. We are so alike and get each other.
What person has influenced your life the most and why?
I have a wonderful younger brother named John. He has Down syndrome and has been the biggest blessing to my family. He has taught me to not judge a book by its cover and not take things so seriously. His take on the world comes from a unique place of purity and innocence. When he has something to say I listen.
Where do you hope to find yourself in 20 years?
In 20 years, I sure better be retired.
Kathy Bertram • 12 Answers
- Favorite sport or physical activity: Dog agility
- Place you would most like to visit: England
- Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
- Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Buy a huge RV and spend a year touring the country 2) Pay off everything; buy three homes, one in Okinawa, one in New Zealand, and one in England 3) Buy a crazy amount of land and take in a crazy amount of animals in need
- Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: John Wick 4
- Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: Late 1700s England
- One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: Financial security
- Your national bird if you were your own country: Parrot, like Hamlet
- Dream occupation: Owner of a small farm
- Person you would most like to meet: Judge Judy
- Skill you would most like to learn and master: Drumming or electric guitar
- Most important issue or problem facing humankind: I have too many to name
Learn more about Biology at Inver Hills by contacting:
More about Biology at Inver Hills…
Biology is the natural science of life and living organisms. The field is immensely diverse with numerous branches from paleontology, the study of prehistoric life, to biochemistry, the study of life at the chemical level, to astrobiology, the study of life beyond Earth.
Why Study Biology at Inver Hills?
Acquire a profound understanding of the natural world.
Studying biology teaches you how to relate to the nearly 9 million other lifeforms that share the Earth with human beings. You’ll develop a strong awareness of diverse ecosystems and how they interconnect and adapt to a changing climate.
Key into your individual biology in the context of human civilization.
Biology gives you insights into your own health and wellness while showing where you fit in the grand scheme of living things. You’ll discover how to make more informed decisions about your diet, habits, and healthcare. You’ll also better comprehend biological issues in society and nature such as genetically modified organism (GMOs), vaccines and antibiotics, invasive species, bioscience ethics, and more.
Fight to preserve our one and only planet.
As a biology student, you’ll have opportunities to examine leading-edge, eco-conservation efforts. You will get a handle on the most pressing environmental issues and learn how to combat exploitation linked to corporate farming, mining, energy production and consumption, deforestation, desertification, and more. Species extinction, ozone depletion, and extreme weather are just a few ecological problems that need your attention.
Explore a cornucopia of career options.
Most biologists pursue careers in seven main areas: forensic biology, microbiology, marine biology, wildlife biology, ecology, biological engineering, and biostatistics. Within those areas are myriad specialty occupations. Here are just a few: agronomist, biochemist, environmental analyst, fisheries scientist, forestry technician, genetics technician, plant pathologist, secondary school science teacher, zoologist, and the list goes on.
Transferable skills are the name of the game.
Biology majors need a really big toolbox for the skill set they’ll assemble during their biological studies. Included in that set are investigative, analytical, research, and communication skills obtained from identifying problems, cataloging information, designing experiments, conducting studies, reasoning logically, making data projections, writing research proposals, composing reports, and so much more.
Work in the wildest places.
Biological scientists working in the branches of botany, ecology, entomology, ornithology, and zoology frequently conduct fields studies in exotic locations, ranging from Arctic iceshelfs to temperate rainforests to coastal deserts to alpine belts to flooded savannas to oceanic midnight zones. If you like doing important, adventurous work while living in primitive conditions, biology could be your calling.
Discover solutions to the greatest challenges of your generation.
When you major in biology with the goal to earn an advanced degree, you will encounter opportunities to participate in world-class scientific research. Unanswered questions linked to biology are focused on biodiversity, the origins of life, brain mapping, virus evolution, sustainable agriculture, synthetic life, fatal diseases, DNA sequencing, and more.
Stamp your passport to the scientific universe of biology.
Biology is the study of life.
Careers in biology are almost as varied as life itself. The field has branches and subdisciplines as prominent as ornithology, the study of birds, or the more obscure myrmecology, the study of ants. As a biology major, you will develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential for rewarding careers in scientific research and healthcare.
Biology is defined as the study of life. Career options for biology majors are as almost as varied and amazing as life itself. Earning your associate degree in biology at Inver Hills open doors to innumerable occupations, from park ranger to forensic scientist to biology professor to genetic counselor to nurse practitioner to biomedical engineer to biochemist.