Graduate program coordinator for outdoor learning center on Bainbridge Island is also an alumnus of IslandWood.

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What do you do? I am the graduate program coordinator for IslandWood, an outdoor learning center based on Bainbridge Island with programs all over the Seattle area. IslandWood offers a residential graduate program through our partnership with the University of Washington. People come from all over the country to earn the first half of their masters degree in education while teaching in our environmental learning programs for elementary school students.

I act as a liaison between the IslandWood graduate students, staff and our academic partners; mentor graduate students and advise their independent study projects; recruit students and oversee the admissions and financial aid process for the next graduate class; and maintain our alumni network.

How did you get that job? I think it helped that I had two years of experience assisting low-income high school students throughout the college application process at the undergraduate school level as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Minnesota. But what probably helped the most is that I am not only one of IslandWood’s biggest fans and love talking about our unique program, but I am also an alumnus of IslandWood’s graduate program! Participating in IslandWood’s graduate program in 2010-2011 was one of the best years of my life because I was able to apply the educational theories I learned in my courses as I helped 4th-6th grade students learn about the natural world all around them. I ultimately learned how to not only be a better educator but also a better person.

What’s a typical day like? If I am not at my desk responding to emails or conducting a phone interview with a prospective student, then I may be meeting with other staff members to help plan orientation training, graduation weekend or the next alumni reunion; coordinating a campus visit with a prospective student; talking with students about our program at a grad fair; or observing my mentee lead a lesson as she/he and her/his field group track Gus, our resident barred owl, with our owl telemeter through the lush forest that covers most of the IslandWood campus.

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What’s the best part of the job? I love helping others make important life decisions and accomplish their dreams as they explore how to connect their passions with their life’s work, whether it is in a classroom, a nonprofit or even a business. I love hearing the sound of children laughing outside my office window. I love observing black-tailed deer grazing in the field while I munch on my lunch during my break. I love meeting students at college fairs who tell me how much they loved their IslandWood experience as elementary students seven years ago, and I love working with people who are all dedicated to providing children with opportunities to learn in nature.

What surprises people about the job? People are often surprised, and sometimes jealous, that I work in such a beautiful place. IslandWood’s property has several miles of trails that lead through the forest, past a pond, marsh and bog down to the harbor. The buildings were [among] the first to be LEED-certified in Washington state and incorporate the cultural history of Bainbridge Island in its aesthetics. People also don’t realize that we’re not just on Bainbridge Island. We have programs in Seattle neighborhoods and at the Brightwater Wasewater Treatment Facility near Woodinville. And we’re launching cool new initiatives like an urban graduate program focused on helping kids in cities explore the environment right in their communities.