Brittney Van Der Werff (MS ’11)
Communications and Outreach Specialist
New Mexico EPSCoR
Albuquerque, New Mexico
What did it mean to you to be named a Wyss Scholar? What were some of the activities and opportunities that held the greatest impact for you?
I could not have done graduate school without the Wyss Scholarship. I applied to SEAS because it was the best program, but I didn’t actually think I would get in. Once I did, it was all about finding money to stay and thanks to Wyss, I've had incredible experiences here in New Mexico. Steve Yaffee is the one who suggested I check out the Valles Caldera Trust in New Mexico. The summer internship allowed me to work at the Valles Caldera Trust in New Mexico before it was transferred to the National Park Service (NPS) in 2015. I was then hired by the NPS as a park ranger to continue interpretive programs and the forest ecology education curriculum I developed while working at the Trust. The experience literally changed my life and fulfilled my career goal to bring effective education and conservation behavior messaging to the NPS. I also met my partner while working at the Trust. He is a wildlife biologist, and we jointly work with local activist groups and nature centers to spread enthusiasm about the natural world and encourage data-driven land management decisions.
Can you tell us about your SEAS experience? How did it help you advance in the conservation field?
What I remember most about SEAS are the courses on negotiation and effective meeting management taught by Yaffee. I still use the books, and it has certainly helped me work alongside other stakeholders in the conservation realm here in New Mexico.
Note: Prior to 2017, the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) was known as the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE). References to “SNRE” have been updated to “SEAS” to reflect the name change.