Celeste Kathleen, a Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management student, traveled to San Jose, California to attend the Association of Science and Technology Centers annual conference and present her research. A non-traditional student, Kathleen understands the importance of professional development opportunities, like attending industry conferences, have on her future career. During her spare time, this transfer student also works at the Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh, where she regularly puts her Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management skills to use. She worked her way up from Floor Staff Member to Program Lead to full-time Community Engagement Coordinator.
How did this experience impact you?
As a nontraditional student, I don’t often get the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities and experiences. The funding I received from the CNR Student Assistance and Enrichment Fund allowed me to take the time to attend this conference and enrich my time here at NC State. I was able to meet professionals in the field, tour museums, attend great sessions and experience a new city. This trip gave me a whole new experience to call upon and learn from when advancing in the field and added to my experience as a College of Natural Resources student.
What did you learn about yourself during your experience?
As a student who came back to school, I often have self-doubt about my abilities and place at school and as a professional. I sometimes have the feeling that everyone else in the room, whether it be work or school, knows things that I don’t or has a perspective I don’t. By attending this conference and being immersed in the professional world for four days, I was able to shatter that self-doubt and realize that I have things to bring to the table. I was able to call upon my coursework and knowledge as a Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management student and have many meaningful conversations with professionals and form lasting connections. I learned that I am an effective communicator and a talented professional in this field.
How has this opportunity prepared you for your future career?
I think attending a conference in a desired field is one of the best ways to prepare for a career. I was essentially shoulder to shoulder with potential employers for four days. I was able to share conversations, laughs and meals with leaders in my field. This allowed me to form bonds and make impressions on people who may be hiring me soon.
What did you enjoy most about your experience?
What I enjoyed most about my experience was attending a session on how to be trauma-informed when putting on programs for the public. It had presenters from Boston and from a Native American reservation. They talked about their experiences dealing with the Boston Bombing and cultural challenges in their community and how they can provide recreation experiences while being supportive and responsible to their community. It was incredible to hear others share their stories and learn how to support my community in times of challenge.
Why would you recommend this experience to other students?
While attending the Pathways conference was a great experience, I would only recommend it if other students were interested in the human dimensions of wildlife aspect of wildlife management.
However, I would highly recommend that all students attend national or international conferences. Both the college and the university provide funds for students to present their research at conferences, and I believe that attending large conferences like Pathways is crucial for students who want a career in wildlife management. While it may seem like there are thousands of professionals in my field, it is a relatively tight-knit community. Making connections with one person could be the difference between getting a job or not.
What do you enjoy most about being a College of Natural Resources student?
What I enjoy most about being a College of Natural Resources student is how adaptable and supportive my major has been. Studying Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management has allowed me not just to be a student, but to be a professional, a conference attendee, and a lifelong learner. My professors and advisor have been incredibly supportive of my journey back in school and encouraged me to apply for opportunities like this grant.
Anything else you would like to say about your student experiences, your major, CNR, etc.?
Being a Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management major in the College of Natural Resources has been an absolute joy. The professors, TAs, my advisor and other students have all been wonderful in addition to the robust offerings for extra experiences. I’m so appreciative and proud to be in this college. Thank you!