Involvement within the Auburn University College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment student organizations provides opportunity for students to exercise leadership skills, build relationships with their classmates and foster community between students and professionals in the varying occupations associated with forestry, wildlife and natural resources. In her own words, learn how participation in student clubs has positively impacted Avanelle Elmore’s experience at Auburn and her career potential after graduation:
Major: Natural Resources Management
Expected Graduation: Fall 2023
Involvement: Forest, Environment, and Wildlife Leadership Academy, or FEWL, Society for Natural Resources
Why did you choose Auburn?
I chose to attend Auburn University because of the small class sizes within CFWE, the personable feel of the campus and the excellence of the natural resources management program. This university was my first and only choice, and I am so grateful to be a part of this college!
What led you to choose this major?
In junior year of high school, I had the opportunity to take environmental science and found that I really enjoyed learning about earth’s systems, the importance of ecosystem services and how human actions affect our environment. This class helped me to realize how passionate I am about conservation and sustainability, and I chose natural resources management because I knew I wanted to work outdoors with people. Another benefit of choosing this major is that the natural resources management industry is extremely broad with various opportunities, and I have been able to explore each of those paths, such as community outreach focused compared to a research-based career.
What is your favorite part about being a student in the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment?
I really appreciate the small size of our college and how easy it is to make friends and engage with professors and advisors. The faculty and staff truly prioritize the student experience, and their efforts have a positive influence on all students who take those opportunities to lean on our awesome support system.
Describe a class that you have taken as a student of Natural Resources Management that has left an impact on you.
One class that has been especially valuable to me was Environmental Ethics taught by Dr. Ed Loewenstein. We read essays from Muir and Pinchot and were prompted to analyze their arguments and distinguish between the management practices that result from conservation compared to preservation. We explored many ethical theories and how they relate to natural resources management as we gradually developed our personal environmental ethic which we presented at the end of the semester. This course has been significant to my academic development and has allowed me to understand my own perspective of ethics within natural resources management. I will continue to mold this point of view as I progress through my career working to connect people to our natural environment.
What opportunities within the college have helped ensure your academic success?
I am grateful to be a part of the Forest, Environment, Wildlife and Leadership, or FEWL, Academy. It is a leadership group within CFWE as well as a two-semester class that challenges students with semester long on-campus projects and prepares students for entering the workforce through meeting with industry leaders and local political officials. This semester we had the pleasure of traveling to Montgomery to meet with the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Christopher M. Blankenship.
If you are involved in a student organization within the school, describe the group’s purpose and why being a member is important to you.
I am currently the president of the Society for Natural Resources, or SNR, which is a student club that was originally started to provide a community group for students of natural resources management, but we are now trying to expand it across campus to anyone who has an interest in conservation. This is important to our organization because we know that those who graduate from our major path are not the only ones entering the natural resources management industry; there are biology, chemistry and environmental science graduates there as well and we should attempt to provide volunteer opportunities and career development skills to as many students as possible. I have been a member of SNR since my freshman year and it has helped me connect with both students in my major and alumni of the program, providing a sense of community through our development as the future professionals of the natural resources management industry.
What are you doing right now as a student that is giving you supplemental experience in your desired field?
I have worked for the CFWE Communications and Marketing department for four years now, having been lucky enough to begin the position of student worker as a freshman. This job has provided me with extensive experience in writing content for the college’s website, social media marketing and graphic design. Those skills may not sound relevant to a career in natural resources management, but they are directly applicable to the community outreach required for gathering public interest in outdoor education and increasing attendance to recreation programs. I am incredibly fortunate to have had this opportunity and so excited to put these skills to work, building upon them over the course of my career.
What are your plans after you graduate?
My plan is to continue gaining experience by working with children outdoors to strengthen my skills in nature-based recreation. While I am working toward this goal, I’ll be applying to relevant positions within the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, such as park naturalist, as I would love to work for the beautiful state that I was born and raised in.
What are you passionate about? How does CFWE allow you to pursue those passions?
I am passionate about helping the public understand the value of conserving natural resources and connecting them to their local resources through outdoor recreation and environmental education. This college has provided me with the knowledge and experiences needed to enter the natural resources management field with confidence, energy and optimism.
What advice would you give to upcoming CFWE freshmen?
I would emphasize the importance of creating a schedule that prioritizes protecting your mental health while working to succeed in your classes and connecting with new and old friends to share this experience with as you grow and learn to be the person you are meant to become.
Interview is lightly edited for clarity.
(Written by Avanelle Elmore)