I attended the Student Conference on Conservation Science at the American Museum of Natural Museum on Saturday, October 22. The workshop I attended was called, “What Am I Doing With My Life? Career Planning for the Modern Conservationist.” Four women who all have a variety of experiences in the field of conservation ran the workshop. I really appreciated their different testimonies and experiences, which further emphasized the underlying theme of the workshop that a career in conservation can look different depending on your interests. The workshop was also helpful for me because it was not just lecture based. Each of the four speakers gave a brief introduction about themselves and then the rest of the workshop consisted largely of group work. First, we broke up into small groups with the people sitting around us and got a chance to practice sharing our interests through our elevator pitches. I thought this was effective because it gave me a chance to practice voicing my interests as well as learn more about the other students attending the conference. Next, we had the opportunity to break up into groups based on our interests and speak with one of the workshop leaders. For example, I went to the group focused on social change and education. In addition to hearing from the workshop leader, I also learned about lots of opportunities in the field of conservation that connect specifically to my interests from the other students in the group. Towards the end of the workshop, we broke up into groups based on our level of education.
The last portion of group work in the workshop was the most powerful for me because it required some self-reflection. Once I was sitting in a group with the other undergraduate students in the workshop, our group leader handed us goal sheets to outline our goals for the end of the semester, the next year, and the next five years. As I looked down at the sheet, I realized I really am not sure what my concrete career goals are. I know that I am passionate about sustainable agriculture and social justice, but I haven’t thought much about how those passions can (and hopefully will) translate into a career. This last part of the workshop made me realize that I have lost a lot of perspective in the ups and downs of my semester. I have been bouncing from assignment to assignment and quiz to exam without really thinking about the significance of what I am learning in each of my classes and what I intend to do with the new knowledge I am gaining. For example, do I want to go to grad school? And what kind of work do I want to be doing? Something in an office? Or outside?
After a thought provoking morning in workshop, I was really excited to have lunch with other DDCSP scholars. I sat with a table of scholars from the University of Washington. We shared our experiences and talked about how our programs emphasized different aspects of conservation. We also talked a lot about the group dynamics of our cohorts and how we felt the group leaders facilitated these dynamics. The scholars at my table had also all completed the DDCSP program so I got to hear about their second summer internships and how they felt now that they had completed their two years with the program. The scholars I was talking with emphasized that they thought the most powerful part of the DDCSP is the connections it helps students make, both with each other and with mentors already working in the field of conservation. That being said, it was really great to reconnect with other scholars from my cohort even though it was only for one day. The conversations I had with other scholars also made me realize how important it is that I start thinking about my goals for the future, especially in relation to the kind of internship I would like to have this summer. I left the conference with a lot to ponder on my bus ride home.
-Tracey Wingate, 2016 cohort