By Casey Dennehy, MES 2004.
I am often asked by prospective students “what is the true value of an education from The Evergreen State College?” In my opinion, the key advantage to an Evergreen education is that it is not only highly versatile, but it can also be applied to a wide range of careers. If one is wise about professional development, and embraces the attitude of becoming a life-long student, then an Evergreen education can take you anywhere.
Personally I’ve been very lucky to have an interesting professional journey that has provided me a position that I never could have envisioned as an MES student. As a freshly minted graduate, I began my career at Mount Rainier National Park monitoring water quality of alpine lakes and streams. Several years later I became an invasive species project manager for The Nature Conservancy, and eventually became a highly skilled wildland firefighter and prescribed fire specialist with the Center for Natural Lands Management. Then, my dream job presented itself and I began working for the Surfrider Foundation in 2012 and it has been a truly rewarding experience.
The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the oceans, waves and beaches of the world through a powerful activist network. There are 84 volunteer-led Surfrider chapters throughout the world that actively challenge local threats to ocean health, beach access and bad coastal development. Some of the most popular and visible projects include public access battles, beach cleanups, and campaigns to ban single use plastic bags. Another program, Ocean Friendly Gardens, gets at the core of our mission and is a program designed to return stormwater into the ground rather than having it enter municipal water treatment facilities that can fail and release raw sewage into our local waterways.
In addition to supporting our local chapters, Washington Surfrider staff are also involved with developing state and national ocean policy. We are very active with the state’s Marine Spatial Planning process, coastal Marine Resource Committees, the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council. Also on the current list of priorities are other projects including addressing the challenges of ocean acidification, implementing shoreline master plan updates, and supporting opposition to coal and crude oil exports.
One of the unique things about the Surfrider Foundation is that we not only strive to protect our unique natural resources, but we also promote the enjoyment and use of them. I once thought that my days spent bobbing in the ocean, waiting for the perfect wave to come my way was a selfish use of my free time. Little did I know that the exploration, networking, and enjoyment of the natural resource was preparing me for my next career. The lesson here is clear: follow your dreams, your passion, and be prepared for the unexpected!