Katlyn Williard (’17) grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia where, through the influence of Virginia Tech, her high school built curricula in agriculture and forestry which inspired her interest in studying forests. On a road trip with her mother, Katlyn discovered Vermont and decided to explore a new, more northerly forest type.
As a forestry student, Multicultural Scholar, and Aiken Scholar in the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, Katlyn thrived.
“Forestry is a smaller major where you get to know your professors. The highlight of my four years was being a teaching assistant for Dendrology,” said Katlyn, who assisted Lecturer Justin Waskiewicz in his tree identification course during her junior and senior years. “I was shy coming in, and I gained confidence and really learned my trees by teaching others.”
Another highlight came early on during the summer of her first year as a volunteer botany intern through the Student Conservation Association and Americorps on the Manistee National Forest in Michigan. Katlyn worked on a crew eradicating garlic mustard, Japanese barberry, and other invasive plants. Her older crewmates served as inspirational role models. With a growing interest in botany, she chose to minor in plant biology.
She also chose several other volunteer experiences. She conducted lab and field work with Research Associate Professor Kimberly Wallin and graduate student Sarah Pears on a project studying the impacts of forest harvesting on insect biodiversity. As a Rubenstein School Steward, Katlyn became a peer resource for current and admitted students, led School tours, and helped to organize School events. She participated in UVM’s Alternative Spring Break for three years, and during her final year, she led a trip to the Smoky Mountains where her group provided service work for a wilderness retreat.
For two summers, Katlyn gained field experience in Vermont, where she collected forest health data on plots throughout the state for the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative (now the Forest Ecosystem Monitoring Cooperative). Her experience led to a semester-long internship helping to manage forest health data for the cooperative. Her third summer took her to Vermont’s Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge where she helped to manage infestations of invasive water chestnut.
During a semester spent studying abroad in Australia, she delighted in learning about the ecology and biodiversity of a different part of the world. She especially enjoyed learning how to manage natural resources in cross-cultural relationships with local indigenous peoples.
Katlyn received the Rubenstein School Forestry Program’s Dale Bergdahl Scholarship two years in a row as an accomplished student who shows potential to advance the forestry profession.
As a member of the UVM student chapter of the Society of American Foresters (SAF), Katlyn served as president the fall semester of her junior year. She attended two New England SAF meetings at which she competed on a two-time champion UVM team in the Student Quiz Bowl. At the National SAF Convention in Madison, Wisconsin, her team did not win but she gained, perhaps, an even better prize – a valuable tip that led to an exciting position the summer after graduation.
Katlyn was accepted to the Conservation and Land Management Internship Program run by the Chicago Botanic Garden in partnership with federal agencies. After graduation, she will head to Alaska. There, she is interning with a forester in the Bureau of Land Management on the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the largest national park in the United States.
With her sights set on a job with the U.S. Forest Service, Katlyn is first considering graduate school in forestry in the near future.