Senior Kate Wettergreen ’20 learned that getting involved was key to her success in the University of Vermont (UVM) Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. She took on leadership roles as a Rubenstein Steward, a teaching assistant, an officer of the student Wildlife and Fisheries Society, and a co-captain of the UVM club ice-skating team, among other experiences.
During high school in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kate studied AP environmental science, led youth camps and adult environmental education programs at a local nature center, and taught learn-to-skate classes for children.
She visited the University of Vermont and fell in love with the campus and all it had to offer her—an environmental sciences major in the close community of the Rubenstein School, cross-campus academic and leadership opportunities, and a synchronized skating team.
To complement her major, Kate chose two minors: wildlife and fisheries biology and geospatial technologies, in which she gained valuable mapping skills in GIS (geographic information systems). She joined the humanitarian mapping club as the outreach coordinator, assisted with mapping natural disasters as part of international humanitarian aid, and helped others learn mapping techniques at club and community events.
During her first year, with a talent for math, Kate eagerly jumped into an applied environmental statistics course, normally taken sophomore year. She discovered a passion for interpreting science using statistics and a knack for getting other students to understand the methods and utility of statistical analysis. As a sophomore, she became one of the teaching assistants in the course of nearly 90 students, and each spring semester, she developed grading rubrics, graded student assignments, and ran help sessions.
“I liked helping students one-on-one and getting them as excited as I can about stats,” said Kate, who was nominated by course instructor Jennifer Pontius and named UVM Student Employee of the Year for her role as teaching assistant. “Students at all stages of understanding came for help, and I liked the challenge of being able to help people at all levels.”
As a leader and teaching assistant in UVM’s Outdoor Experience Learning Community at a residence hall on campus, Kate coordinated events and outdoor trips for residents and led an associated discussion course. She joined the UVM Wildlife and Fisheries Society and became outreach coordinator and then vice-president. With an attention for detail, she organized student events and volunteer opportunities at deer check stations during hunting season, night-time amphibian road crossings in the spring, and other service experiences.
Selected as a Rubenstein Steward, Kate worked with a group of student ambassadors in the School and mentored peers along their journey to graduation. She also assisted the Dean’s Office with student engagement and community outreach.
“Rubenstein has a really great community and being able to work on projects and programs that support it has been such a wonderful opportunity,” said Kate. “One of my favorite parts of being a Steward has been working on projects at so many scales, from organizing community-wide events like Ciderbration to meeting with students one-on-one to talk about writing a cover letter.”
Certified in wilderness first response and swift water rescue, Kate spent a summer as a whitewater rafting guide on the Yellowstone River in Montana. She led guests on safe and exciting paddling excursions down the river. Her boating prowess, combined with her mapping, environmental education, and leadership experiences, helped her to secure a Rubenstein Perennial Summer Internship with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.
As an aquatic invasive species intern on lakes and ponds, she helped to lead Vermont Youth Conservation Corps crews in a state-wide survey and harvest of water chestnut and other invasive plants. Using her GIS skills, she created maps of aquatic invasive sites and delineated boat access points to streamline clean-up projects. Through community training events, she empowered local citizens to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, and she updated an identification guide for volunteers to ensure that invasive plants, not native, are pulled from lakes and ponds.
“The internship was such an incredible opportunity that allowed me to learn so many technical skills and tied what I was learning in many of my classes to real world projects and problem-solving,” said Kate. “I really enjoyed all the time I spent on the water. Pulling out thousands of invasive plants is definitely a lot of work, but being able to see the progress we had made each day, especially when we were working with community partners, was truly amazing.”
After graduation, Kate seeks similar work as a field technician or an environmental educator, and in the future, she plans to further her education in graduate school.