April 1, 2014
By Geneva Mueller
Zella Brink, who has been working with Colorado State University for 35 years, has Colorado in her blood. Not only was she born and raised only 40 miles from Fort Collins in Livermore, she still lives in the house that she grew up in. Her great-grandfather came to Colorado in 1882 and was a homesteader on the land that has been in her family ever since.
Brink, who works as a technician in the Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, was raised in an environment that fostered her love and interest in agriculture. Brink was originally hired by CSU to build a fence around the animal reproduction facilities. Her background with large animals and livestock, Brink led to her being hired on to assist in the embryo transfer process in the bovine reproduction center in February 1979.
Brink made a name for herself by filling in wherever and whenever she was needed. When she had her daughter, she decided that she needed to find a job that was substantial enough to support her family. With this valuable and specified goal in mind, Brink worked her way up the ladder at CSU.
Brink’s work day is still diverse, but mostly involves bovine reproduction. In her 35 years at the University, she has seen the evolution of the embryo transfer process, a technique that is used to increase the efficiency and success of animal reproduction. When the lab began to transition out of the commercial embryo transfer realm in the early 1990s, her role became predominantly research-based.
“What we’re doing now is working with [embryo transfer in] the pure bison out of Yellowstone,” she says. “Chances are that it’ll never get commercially done with bison because they’re so difficult to handle, but what we’re trying to do is preserve the genetics. We hope to have a bank of embryos that we could put in the seed bank that are just pure bison.”
The first calf to be born from an embryo transfer was a product of the lab in which Brink works. And while she says that CSU has long been on the cutting edge of these sorts of innovation, her favorite part of her job here is helping to teach the students that come through the University. Brink feels fortunate to have found a job where she has been appreciated and where she has been afforded the opportunity to learn and grow. Ultimately, this is what has kept her here for three and a half decades.
“It just feels like the place for me to be,” Brinks says. “I still feel like I’m contributing to it. Realistically when I first started, I was raising my daughter by myself and I just had to have this job. I would spend hours above and beyond the paycheck hours just to make sure that I was able to keep the job because it was so important. But now she’s married and has three kids of her own and I still have that same work ethic. If I’m needed, I’ll be there.”
While Brink enjoys the challenges and changing dynamic that her job delivers on a daily basis, in her spare time she works with the mules that she raised, plays around on her four-wheeler and looks forward to full retirement.
Celebrate! CSU Milestones honors University employees for years of service and retirement, and will be held this year on April 30, 4 p.m., in the Hilton Fort Collins Ballroom. Between now and then, Today @ Colorado State will be featuring selected employees Celebrating! Milestones this year.