Ranger Whitney!

Whitney had a fantastic summer outdoors! She reports back to us with her experience as a ranger in the Marin Headlands. Check out what she has to say!

This summer, I got the chance to be an Interpretation (Interp) Ranger out at the Marin Headlands in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  I heard about the position through a listserv I signed up for at Club Day at UC Davis.  I wasn’t actually in the club, since they required dues and I couldn’t make the meetings, but I still got information from them about opportunities like this.  The application process was simple and fast: just a cover letter and a resume.  The hiring process was lengthy, though, with lots of official forms to fill out and some late night phone calls.

Formally, my position is titled Seasonal Ranger-STEP.  The STEP stands for Student Temporary Employment Program, a federal program that extends across all (or at least most) domestic federal offices.  It’s designed for students with at least a half-time course load in high school, college, grad school, technical/vocational school, or professional school with a GPA of at least 2.5.  Its sister program SCEP (Student Career Employment Program) is designed for students to get work experience directly related to their career field of interest.  If you work more than a certain number of hours in the program and successfully finish your education, you get a guaranteed full-time job!

Day-to-day, the life of an Interp Ranger looks something like this:

1)     Open the Visitor Center:  This includes making coffee, answering emails, and processing camping permits

2)     Work the Visitor Center front desk: Usually consists of giving people directions, taking camping reservations and writing permits, and answering any questions visitors have about the park

3)     Work on independent projects:  I have two projects this summer, both dealing with the rich military history of the GGNRA.  One is compiling a summarized version of that history for the training of new interns/volunteers/employees; the other is designing a field guide to the military structures that dot the GGNRA lands.  The idea of that one is to give people a tool to figure out what they’re looking at when they come across a military structure while out on a hike or a drive.  I chose both of my projects out of my interest in military history and my coworkers and supervisor have been really supportive of them both.

4)     Doing interpretation:  This is the really fun stuff (other than the independent projects).  Interpretation is the process of taking some resource—natural (e.g. the geology of the Marin Headlands) or cultural (e.g. a gun battery used for coastal defense during World War II)—and telling its story to the public.  I’ve done interpretation in two main areas in the Headlands this summer: the Point Bonita Light House and Battery Townsley.  If you’d like more information about either of them, feel free to call me (or a coworker) at (415) 331-1540!

5)     Close the Visitor Center: There’s a tight-knit group out here at the Headlands, made of employees and volunteers alike.  Everybody’s warm and welcoming, and while some have their own personal spins on history that we try to iron out, everyone’s here because they love it and they want to be.  Everyone on my work team has been flexible and friendly and a joy to work alongside.  Occasionally something will get hung up in government bureaucracy or policy change, but everyone I’ve met is more than willing to teach others how to navigate official forms so their goals get realized.

When I got this internship, I thought it would be a fun thing to do for the summer in a place I love, but not something I’d consider as a career.  After working with amazing people and learning so much about this amazing place, I’ve found I love ranger work.  I still want to pursue the educational goals I came into college with—namely getting a graduate degree in Soil Science—but I’ve been shown another option of what I can do after that.  Hopefully I’ll get to come back here next summer, or work in another park.  I’m being put on intermittent status after I finish my full-time tour of duty, so I’ll be able to work some weekends and school breaks during the rest of the year.

Signing off from a happy place in government employment,

Ranger Whitney Krupp, SRA Class of 2011

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What I Learned From My Summer Internship

We asked Melissa Lewelling, SRA class of 2010, to tell us a little bit about what she learned this past year from her internship. She blew us out of the water with these great tips! Enjoy!

1) Go In With A Good Attitude And Be A Sponge

The best thing anyone can do going into an internship is ready themselves to be a sponge.  You’re there to learn, and while you may know a lot about how to do your job, you don’t know everything.  Watch the people around you (your boss, co-workers, etc.), especially those in the potential role you might be looking to fill in the future.  Don’t watch them in a creepy way, just take note: of what their daily responsibilities are, how many hours they typically work in a day, how stressed they seem, how far they commute to work, are they able to juggle a family and work, how consistent the prior factors are in their day-to-day life.  Internships are great because they give you a taste of something you think you want to do for the rest of your life, but once you’re actually there you might find that it’s not quite right for you.

2) Don’t Count Yourself Out Before You Start

Whatever company you find yourself interning for (especially your first time) is taking a risk on you.  They hired you because they have faith that you’ll be a competent worker and worth their time.  So even if you are going into something completely unfamiliar to you, like I did, don’t count yourself out as not good enough.  It is easy to get down on ourselves after not completing a task at the level we would have wanted or thinking we don’t have the skills to do it in the first place, but if a stranger was willing to believe in you and your abilities then you have no excuse but to believe in yourself.  Jump into every task with two feet and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Even if someone looks busy, more often than not they understand the potentially overwhelming situation you are in and are happy to help you out.  With the same token, it’s vital to be independent.  Once you’ve asked your questions and gotten clarification, go go go! Don’t wait for someone to hold your hand. Show the world through your actions that you are worth watching.

3) The Classroom Is No Substitute For Real Life

Keep in mind that no matter how good the education is that you’re getting, it’s different in the real world.  I have some of the best journalism professors on the West Coast at San Jose State, but writing for a full fledged business-tech news site was a whole other ball game — when it came to sentence structure, vocabulary, and style.  Keep that in mind if you find yourself grasping for straws at times.  While an internship is to gain further experience in your field, it’s more like a real world classroom where the grades are the favor of your employer.

4) Contacts, Contacts, Contacts

I know everyone says it to the point that it almost sounds a little dated and cliché, but contacts are VITAL.  The short impression you leave with everyone around you is something that will help make or break your future, so make friends.  Just because they’re professional adults doesn’t mean your co-workers or boss are any different than you away from the office.  Don’t be afraid to get to know them personally (in the appropriate setting, like lunch) and stay in touch.  References are what make the world go ’round, even in this digital age.  If you have someone who can personally vouch for you and your work, finding a job after college will be a lot easier.

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My Best College Class: Topics in Neuroethics

by Nina Torres, SRA Class of 2008, Columbia University Class of 2012

I know what you must be thinking: of all the fun classes to take in college, how did a class called Topics in Neuroethics make the top of my list? My answer is that it combined all of the best elements of a class you will ever get to experience in college.

It was seminar class of about twenty people, all psychology and neuroscience majors. I was confident that it would be a great class because I knew the professor. Professor McCaskill had taught another class I had taken the previous semester, and I loved her lectures because she was engaging, funny, interested in her students’ opinion, and always posed thoughtful questions. Her sensitivity to the real experiences of people suffering from mental illness made her compassionate, and she frequently encouraged us to imagine ourselves in the shoes of the mentally ill, bridging the gap between ourselves and the people we studied. This is the first component of a great college class: a professor who is knowledgeable and dynamic.

At first, however, I was concerned that the subject of this new class was a little obscure (how many topics in neuroethics can there be?), but I came to discover that neuroethics is a small but very important field of study for psychologists and neuroscientists. How do we treat the human element? Who do we take advantage of when we conduct studies that seriously impact people’s lives? Are the advances we are making in changing the basic chemistry of the human brain right for society? What are the moral implications of the work we do and how will it change the way people live and think? These were the question swimming in my brain as we talked about practices like neurotransplantation, brain death, and cognitive enhancement. It put me in a position of great moral responsibility that was never touched upon in other classes. I was shocked to discover the passion of my own beliefs that I never knew existed, and I was equally surprised to learn how the beliefs of my peers differed from mine. This is the second component of a great class: interesting, meaningful material that challenges the way you perceive the world around you.

The best part of the experience, however, was the fact that the class was a seminar. Our professor encouraged us to speak from our private, sometimes painful experiences with the topics we discussed. We were free to share aspects of ourselves that are often left out of class discussions because they are deemed too personal, uncomfortable, or politically incorrect: our religious beliefs, our traumatizing experiences, our families, our prejudices. I got to know my classmates with a level of intimacy that I had never experienced even with friends I had known for years. We grew to understand the sources of our differing views, to empathize, and to disagree passionately yet respectfully. Not a few tears were shed that semester as we were entrenched in the gravity of these moral discussions, these questions of life, death, humanity, and suffering. This was by far the best and rarest quality of a great college class: this was my opportunity to be completely open to my peers and to have them be open to me. It was my chance to not only learn what they thought, but what they felt in their deepest and most private selves in a space that was safe, supportive, and inspiring.

When you start taking classes in college, don’t be afraid to reach high. Take those graduate seminars with those great professors. Speak up and represent yourself in discussion. Listen to and grow from the experiences of others. Let yourself be changed by what you learn in class. You may find depths of yourself that you never knew were there before and discover heights of your potential that you never dreamed were possible.

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The Importance Behind the Handshake

We all know how important first impressions are, especially on an interview. When walking out the door for an interview, we check our clothes for lint, fix our hair and practice that winning smile. Something we don’t think about too often though, is what happens as the interviewer is taking that first look at us. Usually, we are shaking their hand.

From the moment you meet the interviewer, they are assessing your appearance and body language to determine if you are a good fit for the company. A weak handshake can be just as harmful to your successful interview as having dyed green hair or a dirty shirt. Your handshake is the interviewers first glimpse at your personality and can set the tone for the rest of the interview. Think of it as your first opportunity to seal the deal.

A couple tips for a good handshake:

  • Stand up to shake the interviewers hand if you are already seated.
  • Confidently walk up to the interviewer with your head level and your hands at your side. Make sure you keep your hands out of your pockets. People don’t trust people with hands in their pockets.
  • Smile. And smile like you mean it. If you are over doing it the interviewer will feel like you are faking it.
  • Make good eye contact so that the interview feels they can trust you. Don’t stare at them but don’t look at your shoes or over their shoulder. Making eye contact as you approach lets the interviewer know you want to engage with with them.
  • If your hands are sweaty, try to wipe them on something before you shake hands.
  • Make sure you are shaking their right hand with your right hand.
  • The pressure you are applying to the interviewers hand should be equal or slightly more than the pressure you are given.
  • The handshake should be under 10 seconds, three-five shakes up and down.

Just like everything else, practice makes perfect. Practice on everyone you meet. Plus, you never know if the next person you meet will be a future boss or coworker…but that’s a different story for a different blog…Happy Handshaking!

-Aliza H.

Career Development

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What to bring to College…and What to leave at home

What to Bring to College . . .  and What to Leave at Home

by Nina Torres, SRA Class of 2008, Columbia University Class of 2012

It’s the big move-in day. You think you’ve brought everything. You have your toothbrush, laptop, bunny slippers… and then you realize you’ve forgotten the single most important article of dorm life: shower shoes.

Certain items seem like obvious necessities for moving somewhere new, but you have to remember that a successful college move-in requires unique considerations. It is important that you bring a lock for your computer (and your bicycle if you have one): laptops and bicycles are the items most frequently stolen on a college campus. For your dorm room, remember to buy long twin sheets for your bed, because most dorm beds are longer than the average twin. You may also want to buy bed risers to create more storage space under your bed. Extension cords and power strips are always good investments, because there’s no way to know how well you will be able to reach outlets in small rooms with a lot of furniture. A desk lamp is also usually a smart buy. If bathrooms are shared, you may want a shower caddy to put your supplies in.

And I wasn’t kidding about the shower shoes; they really are the single most important item to remember to bring with you. Some folks think there’s no problem with showering barefoot, but meningitis is a real issue in dorm bathrooms and a pair of flip flops is a cheap and easy solution to what could otherwise become a serious problem.

As for what you shouldn’t bring, I advise against bringing any of your own furniture. Dorm rooms tend to be pretty small, especially your freshman year, and odds are, you just won’t have the space. I also think that unless you really feel you need your private TV time, televisions are not worth bringing. Most dorms have TVs in common areas and you’re not likely to need one in your room as well.

If you plan on bringing your own wireless router, consider carefully. It was a major problem on my campus because there were a lot of people who thought it might be clever to have their own internet. Though every college is different, there is a good chance that the campus provides wireless for you, and if that is the case, bringing your own router will disrupt the wireless that other students are using. Find out if your college provides wireless internet, and if they do, please respect those who depend on it by leaving your own router at home.

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Career Event Success

Last Saturday our Career Development department hosted a Career Event for rising college seniors.  The workshop started with a LinkedIn presentation from volunteer, Jason Whitney.  Below are some of the helpful tips Jason shared:

  1. When you have identified a company you are interested in working at, check your contacts on LinkedIn and see if any of them work at that company or check to see if any of your contacts are connected to someone who works at that company. These connections are called your 2nd or 3rd connections. Once you identify a connection at your target company, you can reach out to that person for an informational interview and ultimately ask for a reference for the job you are interested in.
  2. Be sure to include buzzwords from your industry/ field in your profile. If you do this, your name will pop up when hiring managers and recruiters search for people with certain skills or knowledge.
  3. Join groups that are related to your industry/ field so that you can keep abreast of trending topics. Also, hiring managers and recruiters search groups related to the position they are hiring for to find qualified candidates.
  4. Ask past and present colleagues and supervisors to recommend you on LinkedIn. Hiring managers and recruiters check these recommendations to gain a sense of your character, skills and strengths.

After lunch the students were given the opportunity to ask questions of and network with professionals in a variety of careers. The students gathered tips on how to land entry level positions post-graduation and got the “inside scoop” on what it is really like to work in a particular field/industry. Some of the fields represented include Science Education, Finance, Recruiting, Hospital Administration and Engineering.

Thank you to all of the volunteers who provided great information and networking opportunities to our rising seniors!

What other LinkedIn tips can you share?

-Aliza H.

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GradWalk Success!

This year was our 2nd annual GradWalk at Hellman Hollow in Golden Gate Park! We had a blast! Lots of wonderful volunteers, staff, students, and community supporters came out to Zumba, walk a 5K in the beautiful summer sun, and munch on delicious food!

We had over 225 people attend! We honored 50 high school graduates and 15 college grads- thats huge! Needless to say, the day was full fun celebrations. We also had some friendly fundraising competition and Team Kosswalker took home the gold! Student David Colby won the raffle for a bike from sponsor Mike’s Bikes, congratulations! And our students helped raise over $25,000 – wow! Thank you!

Thank you to all our generous sponsors as well, we appreciate the support: CBS5,  The Timothy McCarthy Family, The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, Headline Entertainment, The Fairmont, PSAV Presentation Services, EA,  24 Hour Fitness,  Sports Basement, Courtyard Marriott – San Francisco, Mike’s Bikes, Recology , Grant J. Hunt Company and House of Bagels and to San Francisco Recreation & Parks.


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