Involvement within the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences 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 Megan Justice’s experience at Auburn and her career potential after graduation:
Major: Wildlife Enterprise Management
Expected Graduation: Spring 2020
Involvement: The Wildlife Society, AU Chapter of American Fisheries Society
What led you to choosing this major?
I had originally been in Wildlife Ecology and Management, but when I heard about this new degree it really interested me because the enterprise aspect really focuses on interacting with people and working at the intersection of wildlife and the public. It’s also been exciting because I feel that this major is opening new doors in wildlife and it’s been great to come into it as it gains momentum in the field.
Why did you choose Auburn?
Auburn was really always my first choice for my college education; I was raised in a family that loves this school, and the opportunities in wildlife here have not only validated my decision but have gone beyond my expectations.
What is your favorite part about being a student in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences?
Because of its smaller student body, you can easily get to know your classmates and professors. You’re able to surround yourself with like-minded people and really work together as a group. Considering the breadth and number of majors that the school offers, you also find your niche or motivation so that you can succeed as an individual as well.
Describe a class that you have taken as student of Wildlife Enterprise Management that has left an impact on you.
Oh, wow, there’s been so many… Right now I’m taking a mammalian ecology course taught by Professor Ditchkoff. I like it because it’s been challenging but also really conversational and discussion focused. The way its taught is also very practical; he makes sure to prioritize the need-to-know information and explain in it in a way so that we understand how to apply the knowledge.
What opportunities within the school have helped ensure your academic success?
Just recently a handful of Wildlife Enterprise Management students were selected to visit Reno, Nevada to attend the Safari Club International Conference. It was really incredible to see what enterprise jobs are out there and to be able to network with so many people as a representative of the school and this new degree program. That’s a great example of how SFWS invests in their students and shows that they really do want us to succeed.
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.
In the school, I am a member of The Wildlife Society and its purpose is to make connections between wildlife students and professionals; being a member is important to me because it’s really helped me develop relationships within the school. I also want to mention my membership in the university’s chapter of the American Fisheries Society. I think it’s really important to be involved in the fisheries side of wildlife because it’s an extension of your knowledge as a wildlife student and I feel that having experience in both of those aspects has better equipped me for the enterprise industry.
What are you doing right now as a student that is giving you supplemental experience in your desired field?
I actually have a job in the university’s Fish Genetics Lab and although it’s not wildlife it’s definitely given me a lot of opportunity; I’ve been able to give talks at conferences and really put the concepts that I’ve learned into perspective and explain them to a broader audience- such as the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and other state agencies- than just my professors and classmates. I really appreciate being responsible for presentations like that as a student because those experiences have really prepared me for what will be expected of me in the professional world.
Where do you plan to take the knowledge you have gained once you graduate?
I’m thinking of being in the marketing or business side of the hunting and fishing industries, whether that be working for lodges or outdoor products companies. John Burrell, who owns the High Adventure lodging company, visited the school this year and gave an overview of the organization and significance of outdoor recreation and lodging. In that, he talked about how there needs to be people in those companies with a detailed understanding of wildlife so that they can successfully explain to clients why they have those hunting procedures while also having those marketing skills to distinguish the lodge from other companies and bring in clients.
What are you passionate about? How does SFWS allow you to pursue those passions?
I’m really interested in being able to teach the public about the importance of protecting wildlife. The enterprise major allows you to enter a career field where you’re able to focus on that explanation of why forestry and wildlife sciences is important and put into motion the actions we should be taking to conserve and preserve our resources.
What advice would you give to upcoming SFWS freshmen?
Get involved so that you can build a support system and make yourself known to professors, show that you care about gaining that knowledge more than just getting a good enough letter grade to check their class off your course requirements. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions and see what opportunities are in your field because your professors are your biggest asset here and are a direct link to the professional world that you have as a student.
(Written by Avanelle Elmore)