July 1, 2019
School of Sustainability online student Summer Vogel has been interning with Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve since April. Vogel is a junior pursuing an online Bachelor of Science in Sustainability with a geography minor through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a partnership between Arizona State University and Starbucks. She shared her experience as an online student and provided insight into her internship with the National Park Service.
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Answer: I am originally from Southern California (San Diego County). With the flexibility ASU online has given me, I’ve chosen to move to Boise, Idaho, Cave Junction, Oregon and Oakhurst, California. I’ve been actively taking road trips throughout many states — including a cross-country road trip — all while working on my degree. The flexibility is astounding and it’s why I chose to get my degree online. I am currently an Interpretive Park Ranger with the National Park Service at Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.
In April 2018, I had to overcome the hardest challenge of my life so far. I had started my internship with the NPS at Oregon Caves that month and decided to go back home after training for a weekend wedding. During that weekend, I got in a car wreck that left me hospitalized for three weeks and not able to walk for two months.
I’ve been on the road to recovery since then, even as I was offered a job back with Oregon Caves. I decided to take the job because it has been my dream to work for the NPS and I couldn’t pass that up, especially since they were willing to work with my abilities. I am still strengthening my quads so that my knees and hips can handle what they used to before this event.
Q: Why did you choose ASU/the School of Sustainability Online program?
A: I was working at Starbucks and found out that they covered two years of your degree online. Then by the time I applied and got into the school, Starbucks announced that they would start covering all four years. I honestly didn’t want to pay for school, so I thought I’d try it out. I am so glad I did because it has brought me here today with the knowledge and understanding of sustainability and hopes for a brighter future ahead.
Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study sustainability?
A: Throughout my college career I have always majored in something environmental. I started off as a forestry major in Humboldt and then wanted to continue that degree, but the closest thing Arizona State University offered online was sustainability with the option of an ecosystems track. I was all in about learning sustainability while still being able to study the environmental sides and centering my concentration on ecosystems. I was so glad to get into this major because it held a lot of variety with the topic, such as food and farms (favorite course so far), urban dynamics, sustainable cities and so much more.
Q: Can you tell us about your internship?
A: My internship is through the Student Conservation Association who partnered with the National Park Service. I am working at Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve as an Interpretive Park Ranger.
As an intern we focus on educational science-based tours as well as visitor science-based discovery tours. We interact with visitors to answer questions and accommodate their needs. We also work on projects and duties that need to be done on a regular basis. I currently update the website and focus on social media.
Q: What have been your biggest learning experiences from participating in this internship experience?
A: Not having studied geology or botany, I have learned an immense amount about rocks, creation of the caves, and botany and wildlife around the monument and preserve. It has helped me grow more aware of my surroundings in Oregon and my learning capabilities by broadening my knowledge and being able to assist and help others, such as my friends and visitors alike, to gear their thinking more about how our world is being changed.
One big thing I learned was overcoming my shyness for public speaking. I never was a big public speaker, but I have been able to accomplish great tours and interactions with visitors without any fears. It has been great getting comfortable with public speaking, and gaining confidence helped me accomplish this.
Q: Do you have any general advice or tips for success for future sustainability interns?
A: Do something you love. Or if you think you love something and want to pursue that as a career, then do an internship first to see if that is really something you want to do. Otherwise just have fun and enjoy what you do.
Q: How do you envision applying sustainability to your future career?
A: I want to be an advocate for sustainability in the NPS. I want to bring sustainable practices to my workplace and educate the public about sustainability. I find that the National Park Service is a huge organization that a lot of people look up to, so it’s a great place to concentrate my efforts.
Q: What does sustainability mean to you?
A: Sustainability is a lifestyle. I find it very important and practical to change the way I live and choose a more sustainable option for a better future.