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Natural Resource Conferences – Kiara Bailey

Hey guys! My name is Kiara Bailey, and I’m a junior working on getting my bachelors in Wildlife and a minor in Ecology. I don’t know about you guys but to me, college seems to be speeding by, and I only have ideas about what I want to do once I graduate! It’s absolutely terrifying when you think about, which is why I make a genuine effort not to. You can‘t ignore your future though, so I thought I would share about an interesting experience I had that opened up some avenues for me to explore.

Last October I received a stipend for my first conference. I attended the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, SEAFWA, Conference of 2014 in Destin, Florida. It’s a massive conference where an organization made up of state agencies, sends representatives to exchange ideas and information in regard to wildlife conservation, protection and research.

I attended the conference through the Minorities in Natural Resources Committee (MINRC) and was held to a certain standard and given responsibilities. I was expected to attend meetings, dress professionally, and was given advice on how to approach actual professionals. I was allowed several opportunities to talk to various professionals, learn what they do and ask questions.

I was offered some great advice by my mentors in MINRC. For example, they taught me how to create an elevator pitch, which if you didn’t know, is a small speech that gives your name, occupation/major, aspirations, graduation date and other pertinent information. Although it’s called an “elevator pitch,” I have used it so many times, since learning it. It is something I would encourage everyone to develop.

The beautiful thing about conferences, especially those that deal with natural resource professionals is that you are not only given the opportunity to pick the brains of people who have been exactly where we are now, but if you approach them right way, ELEVATOR PITCH or a with nice introduction from a mutual friend/acquaintance, and you leave the right way, giving and receiving a business card, you can pick their brain for as long as you like. Conferences can act as a medium for us as students to make lasting relationships with both current and future professionals, like ourselves. When I attended SEAFWA I met several friendly people who were more than willing to share their advice and give me their contact information, and because of them I have learned about internships that I have never heard of before, have received application and resume advice, and more. I even met the Recruitment and Internship Coordinator for the Texas Park and Wildlife Department, the head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and other influential, yet EXTREMELY friendly people.

Also, it was simply a lot fun. Not every conference takes place in Destin, Florida (that’s right be jealous), but not many of them take place in Athens, either. That means attending a conference will allow you to get out of the area (possibly class) and explore some new things and meet new people! I attended some really interesting talks and made some new and lasting friendships with other students.

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