Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Alumna inspires expeditionary students

The expeditionary studies department has been awarded the Alumni in the Classroom Experience Grant (ACE grant), which allowed the department to bring in alumna Michelle Schonzeit, class of 2004, to talk about her life after Plattsburgh State.

Schonzeit is the Acting Chief Ranger at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Having graduated with a degree in Individualized Studies: Environmental Science, National Park Service Law Enforcement and Expeditionary Studies, she was able to find her career path after a plethora of opportunities opened up for her.

“I think the opportunities for growth and development within the expeditionary studies are phenomenal,” Schonzeit said. “I fell in love with the National Park Services (NPS) during my time here and I recognized the awesome opportunity to have a career in NPS.”

The NPS is an agency of the United States federal government that manages all U.S. national parks, as well as many national monuments and other conservation and historical properties.

Ever since becoming a permanent employee since 2004, Schonzeit has been able to work all over the country in various national parks, which has been an opportunity in itself in building her career.

“I’ve been in situations where I’ve been able to make an impact on people’s lives,” she said. “There have been so many amazing things that I’ve had a chance to do in my career.”

During her visit, Schonzeit held a presentation for Daniel Milz’s environmental studies class Thursday morning, which engaged many of the students.

“The key thing is that she is out doing cool things in the world,” Milz said. “It shows that there is more to life after graduating.”

Having alumni come back to campus to help teach, inspire and connect with current students could be all it takes in order to fuel someone’s passion by seeing what others are capable of doing with their degree.

Sarah Henley, who is an expeditionary studies instructor as well as the coordinator of Odyssey, freshman adventure programs, helped coordinate Schonzeit’s visit after receiving the ACE grant because she wanted to help students realize that this major is a credible, growing department.

“The grant was provided by the alumni association’s office, and is available to every department on campus,” Henley said. “The point is to get her to interact with our current students, to bridge the gap between current and former students of PSUC.”

Following Schonzeit’s in-class presentation, she held one-on-one meetings for anyone who wanted to know more about the opportunities this program has to offer. Along with the one-on-ones and in-class presentation, she also held a presentation in Krinovitz Recital Hall to talk more specifically about her career path and what she has learned along the way.

“Every year we have about 20 to 25 new students in this major, which is a lot compared to the beginning,” Henley said. “There are a lot of different jobs that our students have gone into, as well as furthering and expanding their education.”

What stood out most to both Milz and Henley during Schonzeit’s presentation is how serious her job actually is. Schonzeit was dressed in full uniform, which represented a form of authority.

“It’s a different kind of authority than what a faculty has, or what a police officer has. You see a park ranger, and you see someone who is opening up the public trust while providing safety to the public, which creates an entirely different dynamic,” Milz said. “This is the kind of work that our students want to do. To have an alumni who has gone out and actually done it, and has been very successful in her work, it goes to show what opportunities are available.”

Joining Schonzeit on her visit back to PSUC was her nine-month-old baby girl and her husband, who also works in the NPS. Bringing her family with her also demonstrates the success she has had since graduating in 2004.

“It’s another opportunity for our students to see a professional alumni, and on top of that, being a woman who had a baby nine months ago while maintaining a professional career,” Henley said. “It’s cool how she felt comfortable to do that.”

Email Ezra Kachaturian at news@cardinalpointsonline.com

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