Lisa Ochoa has served as a foster parent to approximately 300 dogs brought to her for rehabilitation and training because they had been neglected, abused and abandoned. Ochoa also has trained, shown or raced dogs for much of her life. She began her career at the UI in August 1991 as extra help, then, a few months later, went to work for the Office of the Provost, where she worked in various secretarial positions until she accepted her current job as a program administrative assistant with the Intensive English Institute during October 2005.
What does your job entail?
I work on promotion but I do a lot of different things. Right now, I’m revising an article for Language Travel magazine. I do Web pages and work on databases. I just started a monthly newsletter to go to agents and agencies overseas who send us students.
What do you like most about what you do?
I like to do all the creative stuff: writing promotional materials, working with the advertisements, building Web pages. The biggest challenge is learning the software because even though the job is similar to what I was doing in the Office of the Provost, they have different software than what I’m used to.
What does the Intensive English Institute do?
Students come here for 20 hours a week of English instruction so they can do undergraduate work at a university, go to graduate school or go into a job in their home country where they need English. They study reading, grammar, speaking, and listening and pronunciation skills. The higher-level students also can take elective courses in subjects such as business, film and current events that are about using English. The students also take a lot of field trips, and they have regular parties and events.
We have more than 200 students this semester.
Of the 200 students, how many different nationalities are represented?
We get a lot of students from Asian countries, and a few from Latin America, Europe and Africa.
We get some students from reciprocal arrangements with different colleges. There is a new scholarship program for gifted students from Kazakhstan, and we have nine students from there this semester. We have a large number of Saudis that got sponsorships and a couple of students from the United Arab Emirates.
The average age of our students is around 22. Overall, they tend to be very gifted students, especially the scholarship winners.
How did you get started training dogs?
I got my first dog to train and show when I was 5. My mother had a kennel of Irish setters, so I grew up showing Irish setters in conformation and obedience. As a young adult, I had Doberman pinschers. The dogs we have now do some combination of obedience, agility, flyball, racing and lure coursing.
I was the trainer of the first shelter border collie to earn a versatility award from the Border Collie Society of America. I do more stuff with whippets now. I have three whippets, three border collies, an Australian cattle dog and a standard poodle. All except the whippets are rescue dogs.
With the whippets, I do straight racing on 200-yard tracks. Two years ago, my dog Banjo was the number two dog in the country. But racing is a young-dog sport, and Banjo is going on 6 years old. He’s training in agility now. He was my first race dog, and we’ve had a great time and won a lot of meets. He finished in the top 10 in a triathlon – which comprises running, conformation and obedience contests – at the Whippet National Specialty in Chicago when he was only 2 years old and wasn’t fully trained.
We race in Minnesota, on the East Coast and throughout the Midwest – Milwaukee, Springfield, St. Louis, Indianapolis – wherever there’s a race meet and we can get there.
For many years I did rescue. Some neighborhood kids brought me my first rescue dog, which was a Labrador retriever mix that would hide in the bushes when the ice cream truck came and jump out and take the kids’ ice cream. I had him until he was 17. He had a skin condition that left bald patches on his back and was costly to take care of and nobody would adopt him.