Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Society for Wilderness Stewardship by Ashley Balsom

            When I first began my internship with the Society for Wilderness Stewardship, I had no idea 
SWS logo
what I was getting myself into. I didn’t even really know what Wilderness stewardship was. My internship supervisor, Mark Douglas, had been my teacher a year prior, so I gravitated toward him originally because I was familiar with his teaching style and I knew I would enjoy working with him. When he said his internship was about finding stories through Wilderness, I was sold. I’ve never been much of a story teller, but I have always loved listening to and learning about other people’s stories. The backgrounds that other people come from fascinate me, so I figured I would enjoy an internship where I just listened to other people tell me about their lives.
Header for my Zahnie article
Starting the internship, it was not entirely what I expected. The first two articles I ended up writing for the website involved researching famous Wilderness stewards Edward Abbey and Howard Zahniser and writing 1600 words on each of them. Because I am not the strongest writer and I had never written anything for the public sphere, these articles both ended in all-nighters. I was stressed out about real people actually reading them, as opposed to my teachers who I knew wouldn’t judge me too much for a mistake in my writing. However, after discussing the future of my internship with Mark and getting my first two articles published, my nerves calmed down and I was able to get to business.
Header for my interview with Christina Mills
            My second two articles were both interviews, per my request. I had really been looking forward to talking to real people during my internship and asking them my own questions, so these two articles were the most fun I have had so far. I first interviewed Christina Mills, a Yellowstone Outdoor Recreation Planner who went to graduate school at the University of Montana. I got to brainstorm what I wanted the interview to focus on, and come up with my own questions to ask her. My second interview was with Alex Weinberg, a classmate of Christina in graduate school. Much like the first interview, I got to come up with my own questions and really think about what I wanted to ask Alex.
            Through this internship I have definitely learned the value of time management. My first two articles were so incredibly stressful, due in part to the fact that I waited until the last couple of days to write them. I have also learned how to conduct successful interviews, think on my feet, and talk eloquently on the phone (something I have always struggled with). I also learned that, without fail, transcription will always take longer than you think it will.
Alex Weinberg, subject of my last interview (unpublished as of 4/23/15)
            My internship is valuable to me both as a woman trying to get experience in her field, and as a current Wilderness and Civilization student. The stories and connections with Wilderness are incredibly important to it’s conservation, as I learned through my classes last semester. Without a valuable connection to the land, people would unfortunately not feel much need to save it. Telling these stories and inspiring others to seek out similar experiences is an incredibly valuable part of conserving our wild areas. With more and more people connecting to things via computers, the importance of creating a sphere of Wilderness Stewardship online is growing. The idea that someone may read my articles and be inspired to go experience the Wilderness is nothing short of incredible to me.

Header for my first article

            I’m still figuring out what Wilderness means to me and how I can become a Wilderness Steward after this internship is over. By writing these articles, I feel that I am not only contributing to the vast need for online Wilderness Stewardship, but I am discovering how to answer my own questions. What does Wilderness Stewardship mean to me? What was my transformative Wilderness experience? I don’t entirely know the answers, but I do know that at the end of my internship I’ll be a lot closer to finding out

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