Student Spotlight: Erika Fye

Neighborhood Ecology Corps activity at the Walnut Creek Wetlands Center

Environmental Technology and Management major Erika Fye, is interning with the Neighborhood Ecology Corps, a subset of the Center for Human-Earth Restoration nonprofit. Each week she meets a group of middle school students from Southeast Raleigh at the Walnut Creek Wetlands Center for educational games and lessons about nature. As part of her internship, she also helps organize and attend fieldtrips for the group to places like Jockey’s Ridge along the NC coast and Grandfather Mountain in Western NC. Trips help broaden students’ understanding of ecology beyond their backyard. Back on campus, Fye, a James L. Goodwin scholarship recipient, stays busy as a CNR Ambassador and coordinator.

How has this experience impacted you?
This experience broadened my potential for career paths. I previously said I was not interested in teaching, but environmental education is an untraditional way of teaching that I am very much enjoying! It is great to teach kids about nature and watch their interest and excitement for it. My students teach me as much about nature as I teach them; they have new and interesting perspectives to show me.

How has this experience prepared you for your future career?

I was previously unsure about what I wanted to do after college, but this has become such a strong passion for me, that I could not imagine not pursuing it now!

How has this opportunity enhanced your experience as a College of Natural Resources student?

I think a really important part of being a student is sharing your experience and passion with others to encourage them to find their passion too! I love being a CNR Ambassador and showcasing majors in the College of Natural Resources (CNR). With my internship, I get to do this with middle and high school students in an underrepresented area of Raleigh. We make sure to remind them the activities we do are some of the things that CNR students get to do. We also remind them that it’s okay if they don’t love the activities; what is most important to them is that they follow their passion. However, it is important to us to make lesser known majors familiar to them and let them know that we would love to see them in these majors!

Why was participating in this experience important to you?

CNR works closely with the Neighborhood Ecology Corps. As a CNR Ambassador, and a Dean’s Office intern, I also provide a strong support system for my internship. There is a scholarship available for a student that completes the Neighborhood Ecology Corps to attend the College of Natural Resources at NC State University, so it is really important for the students I work with to be familiar with majors in CNR, as well as their respective career paths.

What did you enjoy most?

I am currently in a watershed hydrology class that installed a stream gauge along Walnut Creek. Dr. Ryan Emanuel, Associate Professor in Forestry and Environmental Resources, and Theo Jass, a CNR Environmental Scientist, are analyzing the data and sharing it back with the Neighborhood Ecology Corps. They are hoping the data illustrates the voices of those in surrounding neighborhoods complaining of flooding in their yards during storm events, to encourage the city of Raleigh to take action that will alleviate flooding in the neighborhoods around Walnut Creek Wetlands Center.

Would you recommend this experience to other students?

I definitely would! I think it is so important to teach the future generations about natural resources, as well as see the experience of working with an environmental nonprofit. It is an interesting and new perspective.

Any advice to incoming students?

It’s really important to get involved early on, so you can find out what you enjoy doing! Don’t get too involved though. In Environmental Technology and Management, you can easily minor, which I highly recommend! There is plenty to choose from in the College of Natural Resources and it is easy to find something you will really enjoy. Reach out to your advisor or another faculty member you are close with and trust in the college. They have lots of wisdom on courses and are there to help. There has not been anyone I have reached out to that has not been willing to help me.

Have you completed any other hands-on experiences?

I studied abroad this past summer, looking at Sustainable Use of Natural Resources. I completed a focus project on Socio-Economic Realities as we visited Sweden, Germany and the Czech Republic. During Spring Break of 2017, I traveled to Portland, Oregon to look at Sustainable Planning and Urban Development with the EcoVillage.

What do you enjoy most about the College of Natural Resources?

I love the close connection that I have with staff, faculty and graduate students within my college. From working in the Dean’s Office and having several classes in Jordan and Biltmore halls, many know me by name and reach out and check up on me!