April 27th, 2021
Virtual mock interviews prepare GC students as natural resources professionals
On screen, top, left to right: Jessica Aronhalt (Garrett Soil Conservation District), Sarah Milbourne (Rocky Gap State Park), Melissa O'Neil (WV Water Research Institute), Karina Stonesifer (Maryland DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service).
On screen, bottom, left to right: Rande Brown (Maryland DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service), George Eberling (Maryland DNR Forest Service), Melissa Nash (Maryland DNR Forest Service), Donnelle Keech (The Nature Conservancy).
In classroom, front, left to right: Dakota Knott, Cody Spring.
In classroom, middle, left to right: Grant Helmstetter, Curtis (Devin) West.
In classroom, back, left to right: EllaRose Warnick, Kevin Dodge (Director of Natural Resources and Wildlife Technology).
Garrett College's natural resources and wildlife technology associate of applied science degree program receives positive attention across the state of Maryland in preparing future students for entering the workforce as natural resources professionals.
This unique program, led by Kevin Dodge, GC's director of natural resources and wildlife technology, is designed to represent a wide range of natural resources fields and seeks to attract students interested in careers such as parks and recreation, water quality monitoring, wildlife habitat management, fisheries management, wetlands management, forestry, environmental and ecological restoration, environmental consulting, soil and water conservation, and nature education and interpretation.
Fifteen upcoming graduates are on track to complete the mandated seminar II capstone course, NRW289, this spring semester. The course curriculum aims to introduce students to effective job search strategies and prepare them for employment promptly after graduation, if not sooner.
Course content emphasizes identifying an ideal position, conducting a successful job search including preparing an effective resume and cover letter, interviewing, and using multiple resources to locate potential internship/job opportunities in natural resources and wildlife technology areas.
During a recent class session, students experienced valuable mock interview scenarios with professionals in the natural resources industry. Eight regional experts, representing the private, public and nonprofit sector careers, provided virtual mock interview sessions to all fifteen students.
"Sometimes the students need some help understanding how their life experiences like hunting or fishing or working on the family farm can add to their application for a professional position at The Nature Conservancy," remarked Donnelle Keech, Resilient Forests Program Director at the Nature Conservancy. "It's very gratifying to show them how to highlight all their diverse skills and experiences in a job interview."
To safely accommodate this long-established NRW 289 rite of passage, the mock interviews took place in the virtual environment using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meets.
"Although the details for were a bit tricky to orchestrate, the virtual format provided students with a realistic experience considering the current operational status of many organizations," noted Ashley Ruby, GC's director of the Advising and Academic Success Center and Seminar II instructor.
Following the individual virtual mock interview sessions, interviewers joined in one final virtual group session to provide final feedback and impart granules of wisdom to the rising graduates. (see accompanying photo)
Students must prepare for the mock interviews as they would a real-world job interview: appropriate interview attire, eloquently verbalizing academic and professional accomplishments, and discussing technical skills and proficiencies.
"This was an invaluable experience and I am extremely grateful to Ashley, Kevin and the interviewers," said Tess Nichols, GC student who will be graduating this May. "I was interviewed by people I admire and walked away enriched with knowledge. I gained confidence, excitement, and insight. I am very appreciative of this opportunity and the program itself for preparing my classmates and I for our next steps after college."
The mock interview activity is only one of a variety of employability skills Seminar II students experience in the spring semester immediately before graduation.
"It is incredibly humbling to see industry professionals who are willing to lend time and expertise to our graduating students," added Dodge. "Students are always thrilled with the experience and much more prepared and confident going in to future interviews."
"This class is intentionally designed to teach students how to search for, apply to, and successfully secure a career in the natural resources and wildlife technology employment sector," Ruby explained. "NRWT graduates leave Garrett College with a polished resume, interview confidence, and – very often – a job in their desired field!"
GC's NRWT program includes practical, field-based instruction and hands-on classes (most with an outdoor component). Students manage wildlife habitats, sample fish populations, survey timber, map plant and animal communities, monitor rare plant and animal species, restore eroded stream banks and degraded wetlands, and help children learn about nature.
As part of the program, students also enjoy small class sizes and personalized attention, advanced technology including Geographic Information Systems and Global Positioning Systems, employment and volunteer opportunities, class trips to the Chesapeake Bay and other regional environments, and spring break trips to southeast Arizona.