What professional hat do you wear?
I am a Pre-sale Forester on the Saint Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie Ranger Districts, of the Hiawatha National Forest for the United States Forest Service (USFS).
What does a day in your life look like now?
I have a flexible schedule, but I typically work Monday-Thursday from 0700-1730. I work in the office about 2-3 days a week and in the field about 1-2 days a week.
When I’m working in the office, I do anything from participating on interdisciplinary teams for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) projects to writing timber sale contracts. I recently moved into a supervisory position, and I will begin supervising individuals within the next few months as well.
Some of my other responsibilities include laying out timber sale units, developing cruise plans, marking timber, cruising timber, and timber sale road layout. In addition, I am our forest’s LGBT Special Emphasis Program Manager and a member of our Green Team.
My job is constantly in flux, with shifting priorities as the weather and other variables change. I always have something to do, but get the opportunity to go to trainings, and increase my non-technical skills throughout the year as well.
What inspires you to go to work every day?
I love that the USFS is concerned with the forest as an ecosystem. We are not only concerned with the timber resource. The integration we do between resource areas is fantastic and fun to be a part of. But, the best part of all is going into the woods. Most people go into this profession because they love the outdoors, and they don't want a desk job for their whole life. I love the fact that I get to develop technical proposals in the office and go get dirty in the woods, often both in the same day!
How did your degree set you up?
I got my foot in the door with the USFS through the Pathways program. I was a member of the Society of American Foresters (SAF) Student Alpha Chapter at CSU my junior and senior years of school. My senior year I attended the National SAF Conference, where I received my Pathways position here on the Hiawatha National Forest.
The Pathways program allows students or recent graduates to intern with the USFS, or other federal agencies with the intent to convert to a permanent employee after you obtain your degree or obtain so many hours of your internship. Once you convert to the permanent position, you are guaranteed a fairly quick promotion and responsibility “ladder”. Without the SAF Alpha chapter at school I cannot say for certain I would have gotten where I am today.
As far as my technical skills, Warner College does a phenomenal job of preparing you for the work force. The amount of hands-on-experience I got in classes prepared me to excel in the field and my analytical classroom skills prepared me for the work I do in the office.
One of the best parts of my degree was the summer semester I took at Colorado State University Mountain Campus (formerly Pingree Park). This semester gave me technical skills to measure not only tree information, but rangeland, wildlife, recreation, and watershed data as well. In my career, I work with all of these resources and more to help sustain a fully functioning forest and ecosystem.
Other courses were very important too. Taking two NEPA classes was a must, because planning takes up a large portion of resource programming. Being well versed in GIS was crucial, as I use ArcMap almost every day for my position.
What words of wisdom can you offer current students?
Get involved early and often! Volunteer, go to professional meet and greats, go to social events with professionals because networking is key! Most employers like to see experience, and volunteering is an easy way to tackle both networking and gaining experience.
What motto do you live by?
“What you think about, you bring about, concern yourself with the positive.”
Generally, you are capable of great things. Think about those hopes and dreams deeply and often. This will make it more likely for you to take action to achieve those hopes and dreams. If you get bogged down in negativity it can be harder to concentrate on taking appropriate action to reach your aspirations, so concern yourself fully with the positives in life. It can be hard to be optimistic all of the time, but attitude is something that you choose, so choose a positive one and things may go your way more often than not.