A career in the National Park Service is as diverse and interesting as the people who make up the National Park and public lands workforce. And although there are many challenges ahead for the future of public lands, people like Michele Bratschun, a CSU alumnae, find their careers to be incredibly rewarding.
So what exactly is the National Park Service?
If you have ever enjoyed a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in our own backyard, or have taken a road trip to the Grand Tetons or Yellowstone, you can thank the National Park Service for making it all possible. Since 1916, they have been putting extraordinary efforts into safeguarding and caring for the national lands. They’re revitalizing communities and sustaining cultures across the United States by preserving the land that holds so many stories and so much information.
To give you an idea of the breadth and depth of the work of the National Park Service, here are some things to know:
• National parks log more than 720 million visits per year.
• National and state parks have an economic impact on their communities to the tune of $20 billion.
• There are more than 38,000 miles of trails, 221,000 campsites, and 8,000 lodges and cabins at national parks.
People like Michele Bratschun play their significant part in making these places a reality for all of us. Currently, Michele is the coordinator for the BioBlitz Festival of the National Park Service. The BioBlitz Festival is a two-day festival that gathers thousands of visitors to learn more about biodiversity within the National Parks we all know and love. It partners with National Geographic to offer outstanding resources and training for those who attend, and the festival helps to bring awareness and action to our part in keeping these public lands operating.
Michele’s career has taken her a variety of places from teaching in schools, to working up at the CSU Mountain campus, and even to Costa Rica for a work abroad trip. Throughout all of this, Michele learned that it was entirely important to be mission-driven. To that end, she realized that her values aligned well with the mission of National Park Service, which is to protect natural resources for all that future generations to come. Not to mention, Michele’s role allows her to use her skills in program planning, teaching, and the outdoors throughout her days.
How does she do that, you ask?
Much of her work plays exactly what is trending in the field right now. On the front end, Michele is educating visitors to the parks on what they do for the land, for the ecosystem, and for all of us through specialized programming throughout the year. That means she is teaching the ever-increasing number of visitors how to have a positive experience by taking care of their surroundings. The behind-the-scenes efforts look like stewarding limited budgets well, managing resources within ecosystems, and working collaboratively with other land management agencies and partners.
To do all this, Michele offers up a handful of key skills it takes to have a career in the National Park Service. “Teamwork, emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, flexibility, being able to work with others. Those are big. But the most significant of all is a passion for conservation work. If you don’t have a passion, it will be difficult to thrive in this environment.”
Another career tip Michele gave us was about the story of her supervisor who taught her the strategy of an “easy yes.” She says: “If you think about where you want to go in your career and what skills you need to get there, think about what activity you can do in your current job that can give you those skills then think through the benefits to yourself, your supervisor, and your company then approach your supervisor expressing your idea and explaining these benefits.”
And finally, Michelle would encourage you to “gain mastery of USAjob.gov, network with as many people as you can, and make sure to get that hands on experience.”
To learn more about the National Park Service and all the work they do, check them out here.