From Science to Service

I am frequently asked by families of our athletes, volunteers, and donors how I ended up working in adaptive sports. They are especially curious when they find out my background is in environmental science/biology. And although it seems like I have come far from those scientific roots, in reality, it doesn’t feel that way.

When I began working at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo as an Environmental Educator, my first ‘real’ job after college, I absolutely loved it! I loved my job for a lot of reasons, but one of the primary reasons I was proud of what I was doing was because I was using the degree that I had worked so hard for. It quickly became clear to me that one of the other reasons I took such great pride in what I did was that it gave me a chance to connect with people and give back to the community. The kids that I could teach to love nature, teachers that I worked with to develop interesting material for programs, and especially the volunteers and coworkers that I worked and learned with every day.

CT Beardsley Zoo

When people asked me what I had studied to get a job like that I would tell them, “I have a B.S. in Environmental Science” (with an emphasis on the S in my degree!). I often had to translate and began to describe it as a degree in ‘Environmental Problem Solving’, soon shortened to ‘Problem Solving’. That is what I am good at! That was when I started to realize that I could use my degree in other ways outside of science.

It was a hard job to leave, and one that has shaped my thoughts and attitudes on my career. When I arrived in the eastern Sierra, a nature lover’s paradise, I thought I would remain in the broad field of science. I quickly realized that the majority of the science jobs I encountered in the area were not quite right for me. So I looked for a job that I could do while continuing my search. And that is when I found Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra; or I should say, they found me.

I was volunteering with the local dog sled outfit, Mammoth Dog Teams, when the DSES summer program brought down several athletes with disabilities to work with the dogs. Working dogs can provide just as much benefit as therapy or service dogs, albeit in a different way, but that is a topic for another time. I learned that the program was looking for administrative help and since I had those skills, and most importantly liked the team of staff and volunteers I had met, I applied for the job.

Disabled athletes and the healing power of sled dogs
Disabled athletes experience the healing power of sled dogs

Almost nine years ago, I started working with the team and realized my skills were a great fit for the organization. As an administrator, my logical, scientific approach and attention to detail were an asset and as Summer Program Manager, I was able to use my problem solving and environmental educator skills to develop new and interesting program offerings. I also became the member of a great team of people that are giving, generous, determined, inspiring, supportive, and encouraging.

Over my tenure with the organization, we have grown and thrived, and I have been able to realize that there is a science, as well as an art, to running a business. My ‘problem solving’ degree may now be used for a different ‘cause’, but I still am making great connections with amazing people, giving back to the community, and am a part of a great team. The people are the heart of the organization and DSES’s heart beats strongly!

Doesn't this look like a great team?
Doesn’t this look like a great team?

So I encourage you to think not only of how you got to where you are in your career today, but consider the why and the who. Coming up, we will talk more about teams. Are you proud to be a part of your team?


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