For students with an interest in the environment, the natural resource management (NRM) major, introduced in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 1997, opened up a cutting-edge program that combined science, economics, and public policy.
Now, current students and graduates in the NRM major are relaying their skills into successful internships and employment with companies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Delaware Water Resources Center, IFC International and the Peace Corps.
“At that time (in 1997), the college didn’t have an interdisciplinary major, where you learned a little economics, a little plant science, a little entomology and wildlife ecology, and then took that background into the job market,” said Steven Hastings, professor of food and resource economics.
“The students in NRM are very good students, they’re very motivated students, and they have a passion for the environment,” he added. “They’ve got a lot of initiative. I think that’s what employers look for in potential interns today.”
NRM students have also continued their education in graduate programs all over the country, studying urban planning, zoology, environmental law, coastal zone management and more. The diverse and demanding major, which also includes courses on communications and ethics, gives students a foundation for advanced degrees in a variety of subjects, Hastings said.
“It’s a fairly rigorous major,” he said. “We had a student this past semester who applied to six very good graduate programs and was accepted at all six.”
Jennifer Popkin, a former NRM major, interned with the United Nations as the climate change coordinator after she graduated from the University in 2009. She served as the project manager of their global climate change project for six months.
Popkin said the intimate nature of the NRM program allowed her to interact closely with professors and other students, which led to numerous opportunities including an intensive research project.
“I spent the fall of my senior year studying how the trade and economic policy of India affect watershed development,” she said. “There were four students in total on this research project, and we each studied a different aspect of development. Part of the research included a trip to India.”
Kristen Loughery, also a graduate of the program, completed internships at the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), AmeriCorps, and a private environmental consulting firm while at the university.
“NRM provided me with a broad education, which prepared me to work towards my goals as an environmentalist,” Loughery said.
After receiving a master’s degree in natural resource economics, Loughery was hired by the EPA, where she said “it is extremely important to apply my education in policy, human behavior as it relates to incentives, and general scientific knowledge, all of which I attained through NRM.”
Hastings said internships are vital in helping students to explore career paths and see the real world implications of the issues they study at UD.
“Two interns that were working for me this summer, I found them out in the marsh one day, covered in mud, swatting mosquitoes,” Hastings said. “I think it’s very good for them to get out and get their hands dirty.”
Article by Chelsea Caltuna
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