WASHINGTON, PA (September 27, 2022)—After spending semesters studying in historic structures and cozy classrooms, W&J senior Stephanie Shugerman decided to take her learning outdoors.
A psychology and environmental studies double major, Shugerman spent the summer interning with the Student Conservation Association and Americorps, serving as a state park interpreter at Lake Metigoshe State Park (LMSP) in Bottineau, North Dakota and developing educational programs for park visitors.
“It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had,” Shugerman said. “I…got to experience how amazing it can feel to live and work at a beautiful park, showing others all of the cool things that I love about nature, so that they might love them too.”
Tasked with programming the park’s outdoor learning center, she did just that, educating the public on wildlife, trees and soil, the importance of forests, freshwater ecology, ornithology, foraging, pioneering, hiking, biking, and more, through interactive performances, camps, lessons, and activities.
“LMSP, along with many other state parks in North Dakota, hold Halloween in July,” Shugerman said. “My co-worker and I were in charge of ours. One of my favorite moments of the internship was leading Halloween Jeopardy with around 100 people who were actually excited about participating,”
“Also, I got to help people splash around in our wetlands looking for benthic macroinvertebrates,” she continued. “I got to teach that at my first internship, and it’s one thing that I personally love, so it was a really fun, full-circle thing for me.”
Funded by a Maxwell Awarded and supported by Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Robert East, Ph.D, and friends at the Frick Environmental Center, Shugerman learned that fun, like this, can be a forever.
“Interpretation and environmental education have been something I’ve loved for a while,” she said, “but I was unsure of how they would work as a full-time, official position. Having this internship allowed me to do away with some of my anxieties about this as a career and showed me…just how much I love teaching about nature.”
Even human nature, it seems.
After graduation, Shugerman plans to study psychology in graduate school, or continue on the naturalist route, pursuing a National Association for Interpretation (NAI) certification to teach in the park system.
No matter her choice, she’s looking forward to the future.
“This was my first professional experience in the state park system,” Shugerman said, “…and it made me realize how much I am truly capable of.”
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu or call 888-W-AND-JAY.