AlumniCollege of Business

Giraffes are a girl’s best friend

FGCU alumna grows up with and helps promote exotic animals

Most kids enjoy visiting the zoo to see exotic animals. While growing up in Naples, Courtney Jolly (’10, Marketing) could do that at home.

“My mom is an animal aficionado,” Jolly said. “She’s had monkeys, camels, zebras – my alarm clock was a kangaroo in middle school. It was crazy.”

Jolly’s love of animals – even her love of Joey, the kangaroo responsible for her morning wake-up calls – began early, and contributes to why she loves her role as the director of marketing and public relations at the Naples Zoo.

Jolly has worked at the Naples Zoo for more than two years, doing everything from designing advertisements and meeting with media outlets to creating unique marketing opportunities. For example, she arranged for a new TV show called “Chasing Down Madison Brown” to film an episode on the premises.

Although her workdays are busy, time management was a skill Jolly learned early. After graduating high school, she raced monster trucks professionally, touring the United States on the monster truck circuit Thursday through Sunday, and taking classes at FGCU on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Jolly chose FGCU so that she could visit with her family when she wasn’t traveling for work.

After 3 ½ years on the circuit, Jolly was injured when a safety harness broke. Her neck, back and shoulder were damaged badly enough that she still goes to the chiropractor for physical therapy.

“It put me out for six months,” Jolly said. “I got back in and I was okay driving, but then again I got hurt and that was kind of the final straw.”

After her second injury, Jolly decided to finish her marketing degree and pursue a different career path.

Jolly went into banking and got her real estate license. Now, in her time not spent at the Naples Zoo, Jolly enjoys selling real estate.

She said her favorite part of working at the zoo is seeing the children in its education programs learn about environmental stewardship.

“When they learn to love something, they learn to appreciate it and they’ll want to take care of it. If we can instill that in them when they’re young, their future of being interested in conservation is brighter,” Jolly said.

Jolly’s advice for FGCU students pursuing careers is to never give up.

“You never know what the world’s going to throw at you, or the economy’s going to throw at you … just keep your head up and you’ll get there,” she said.