Major: Environmental Studies
Year of Graduation: 2006
Current Position: Community planner with the National Park Service
Graduate School: University of Colorado in Urban and Regional Planning, emphasis on Environmental and Land Use planning
Please give a brief description of your current position and where you're working.
I'm a community planner with the National Park Service located in Denver Colorado. I work on a variety of natural, cultural, and recreational resource management plans for National Park units all across the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Guam. My role as a community planner involves coordinating with subject matter experts (i.e. biologists, archeologists, park rangers, etc.) to ensure that their expertise helps inform and guide our planning efforts.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
After graduating from St. John's with an Environmental Studies degree, I took a year to live and work in eastern Montana. During that time I taught 7th and 8th grade science at a small country school, worked on the family farm, and taught myself geographical information science (GIS) during a stint working for an oil exploration company. The following year I started graduate school at the University of Colorado in Urban and Regional Planning, with an emphasis in Environmental and Land Use planning. During graduate school my interest in GIS grew, and I also started working on a graduate certificate in GIS. I also volunteered for several non-profit land trusts as a planning and GIS intern.
In my final semester of graduate school, I started a GIS internship with the National Park Service. After graduation, that GIS internship led into a full time job as a GIS specialist with National Park Service's (NPS). After working for two years in this role, I took a job with the NPS planning division. This move allowed me to better use my planning degree, along with my GIS expertise.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Be flexible, confident, and aggressive. Getting a job with the federal government and especially the National Park Service is extremely competitive. Any seasonal, SCEP (Student Career Experience Program), or Pathways internship you can find is a great way to get your foot in the door. Many students don't realize that they can circumvent the federal HR gauntlet by just calling up the park or office they would like to work for and asking if they are interested in hiring a SCEP student. Lastly, coming to the table with a marketable skill such as geographical information science or computer aided design (CAD) is always a huge benefit to federal land management agencies.
What skills are important in your field?
To be effective at my job I have to have a general knowledge of many different disciplines and their associated jargons. Being just as comfortable talking construction as you are riparian ecosystems makes you a better planner. GIS is also a critical skill. It has found its way into almost everything we do, and being a "go-to" person for that skill is what puts you in demand.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
Probably the most valuable thing CSB/SJU contributed to my career was a multi-disciplinary education. I find myself constantly needing to recall obscure facts from environmental history, ecology, environmental economics, and statistics.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
Going out and experiencing new National Parks. The biggest benefit of my job is the travel. I've worked in places like Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Canyonlands and Zion.