Ellison is a project manager for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Denver Regulatory Office. His responsibilities include administering the USACE Regulatory Program by ensuring compliance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to assist in the protection of the nation’s aquatic resources, while allowing reasonable economic and societal development. He also establishes the accuracy of wetland delineations accompanying permit proposals, aquatic resource inventories, and pre-application consultation requests.
What led you to a natural resources education/career?
After some of the things I saw during my time in the military, I wanted a career that functioned to address the growing vulnerability and interdependence of the ecological, economic, and cultural realms within the U.S. and globally.
What do you identify as your 'big break?' Did CSU have anything to do with it?
My biggest break actually came when I read the email stating that there would be a new degree program at CSU titled Ecosystem Science & Sustainability (ESS). I had struggled to find a natural resource track that felt like it wasn’t firmly rooted in an existing, static curriculum structure. Given the increasing change present in all aspects of modern life in the last 10 years, I needed a path of study that was much more fluid and up to the task of keeping up with current levels of critical thinking needed to wade through the mountains of data now available. CSU definitely had everything to do with this break since the new major began at precisely the moment I needed to continue my life’s progression.
What are you up to now in your job? Any noteworthy projects to discuss?
Most of my current work involves the commercial, but largely residential, development of the Denver Metro area. With so much constant growth in the area, existing utility oil lines, storm water systems, and recreational facilities among others, require upgrades and sometimes entirely new properties. My job brings me into the construction project team consisting of several environmental contractors, property owners, and other government entities, until completion of the project. There are no specific projects to note currently, but it’s been pretty amazing to be on the front lines of this unprecedented growth phase throughout Denver to help ensure that growth doesn’t go unchecked at the expense of the existing ecology.
Can you reflect on your time and experiences at CSU and how it benefited you?
There were some tremendous benefits working with Marilyn Thayer at the Academic Advancement Center (AAC). The AAC focuses on bringing together first generation degree seekers and other non-traditional students, which was very helpful to me being where I was in life. Given that I worked full time while in school full time all but one semester at CSU, the isolation that I felt from all other students in my classes was sometimes overwhelming. Working with Marilyn and her staff really helped me to feel like I belonged somewhere at CSU, even if we were only able to meet once or twice per month.
How did CSU set you up for success in your career field?
I was part of the inaugural class of the ESS program, which brought about some skepticism from other classmates and myself as to what kind of job I could get after graduation. The undeniable strength of the program was that its smaller size and program adaptability humanized education again for me. A few months before I graduated, I was only able to attend a career fair on one of two days it was held. Shortly after, Kaye Holman (my ESS advisor), passed along the contact information to an Army Corps of Engineers recruiter that had come to the fair the day I missed. I called that day and was eventually hired within 6 weeks of graduating.
What advice do you have for current students or recent grads?
The only advice I feel qualified to give is to know that although we can each achieve great things individually, the greatest thing many of us can do is ask for help. Humanity isn’t and has never been measured by the strength of a person, but the resilience of our communities. Take care of each other.