Sam is currently working as an Assistant Instructor in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship at Colorado State University since January 2017. Sam co-teaches Oceanography and Global Environmental Systems to a total of 700 students. In addition to teaching students, Sam leads exam review sessions, assists in course development, creates exams and homework assignments and gives extra assistance to any student in need. Starting in August 2018, Sam will begin pursuing a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning at University of Colorado-Denver. Sam hopes to use her degree to aid urban sustainability efforts in all aspects and ensure all city dwellers have easy access to some form of outdoor space. Long term, she hopes to obtain her Ph.D. in Environmental Planning, Urban Ecology or a related field and work for the Nature Conservancy’s Global Cities Network.
What led you to a natural resources education/career?
I have always had a passion for the natural environment from when I was young. I am happiest in the outdoors and 100% believe that people need nature in order to live happy and productive lives. I want to dedicate my career to ensuring that preserving our natural world is a top priority.
What do you identify as your 'big break?'
My ‘big break’ was taking Dr. Ursula Quillmann’s Coastal Environmental Ecology (NR 370) class at CSU. Her class was the first elective I signed up for as a new ESS’er. I absolutely loved the class and after the semester was over, she contacted me about working for her as a teaching assistant. I worked for her until I graduated in 2015. In spring 2017, she invited me back to CSU to teach her Oceanography class while she taught at Semester at Sea and the rest is history. The knowledge and experience I have gained is invaluable. CSU played an instrumental role. If I had not switched to ESS, I would never have taken her class and would not be where I am today.
Can you reflect on your time and experiences at CSU and how it benefited you?
As a freshman at CSU, I started out as an Environmental Engineering major. Come the end of my sophomore year, engineering did not feel like the right fit. I would always choose to study in the Natural Resources building because of the plants and waterfall features on the first floor and the overall relaxing atmosphere. I eventually realized Warner College was where I needed to be and decided to major in ESS. I contacted Nikki Foxley and she seamlessly transitioned me into ESS. She took the stress out of it all and I am extremely grateful for her help! It was the best decision I ever made.
What advice do you have for current students or recent grads?
Study abroad, if you can! I studied abroad in Bhutan and participated in an environmental directed research project. I got a taste of what research is like and learned how another country operates, culturally and environmentally. Plus, it can be a great conversation point in an interview.
Make connections and network! Reach out to professors or professionals who are working in fields that you are interested in. They may think of you next time they have a job or internship opening and, at the very least, they can give you advice on how to break into the field.
Don’t worry if you have no idea what you want to do! I graduated from CSU with no clue on what I wanted my career to be. I worked various seasonal jobs for many different organizations. Each experience helped me figure out what I liked and didn’t like and helped me narrow down my focus to environmental planning, a field that wasn’t even on my radar at graduation. If you aren’t sure what you want to do, try instead looking at companies you would want to work for. Even taking a first job that isn’t in your field of interest, like an administrative assistant, can get your foot in the door and allow you to find your niche within that company.