Day-by-Day: Highlights from D.C.

The past week was a whirlwind! It seems that even the weather agrees as Washington D.C. is under a tornado warning today. The Career and Leadership Workshop agenda was jam-packed Tuesday through Thursday and Monday and Friday were travel days for most of the participants. Here are only a few of the highlights!

Welcome Reception

This was the first time we all saw each other in person. The halls echoed loudly as we tried but often failed to hold conversations during the ice-breaker activity. I had never set foot inside the National Academy of Sciences, and I was very happy to have had the opportunity to hear live music and explore the exhibits, especially the Poets for Science exhibit with my friend and fellow intern, Marty Trujillo. I used to write poems inspired by my experiences as an undergraduate geology student and this exhibit was a lovely reminder of that. The exhibit was interactive, allowing us to make our own erasure poem. (Note to future interns: charge your phone so you can take pictures with your friends!)

Day 1

A day I will not soon forget: 

  • First, a PowerPoint history “tour” of the DOI building.
  • Then, a warm welcome from Mike Martinez, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
  • Next, a surprise intern and supervisor awards ceremony!
  • And finally, an informative DOI career panel Q&A with:
    • Captain Sara Newman (USPHS)
    • Robyn Rees (DOI)
    • George McDonald (NPS)
    • Merlene Mazyck (USFS) – Thanks so much for sharing your personal and professional journeys with us!


My personal highlight of the day, of course, was presenting and listening to my fellow NPS Conservation Fellows’ presentations. My presentation went swimmingly, and I was very proud of myself and my efforts in preparing for this day. The experience, complete with bright stage lights, a podium, a large screen and the American flag behind me, was phenomenal. To speak in front of an auditorium full of both talented peers who had done incredible things this summer and experienced DOI employees at the top of their fields, was both inspiring and energizing!

Day 2

At the beginning of summer, EFTA sent us a copy of Dr. Daniel Wildcat’s book, Red Alert: Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge! On Wednesday, we had the pleasure of hearing from Dan as our guest lecturer. An eloquent speaker, he emphasized key points from his book regarding our responsibilities to the planet, the need to bridge the culture-nature gap, and the foundational differences between biocentric indigenous worldviews in contrast to anthropocentric and utilitarian ones. Later, he sat with us at lunch and even signed our books!

After lunch, and with a little over an hour to spend visiting other interns’ posters I did my best to talk with everyone who was available. This was the first NPS/conservation/young professional’s conference I have ever attended, and it was amazing to see how diverse our groups and experiences at parks were. I really wish there had been more time (perhaps even two days of poster presentation sessions) and less echo in the lunchroom. However, out of ~35 poster presenters I got to hear and ask questions from the following presenters:


At the end of the day, we all boarded a trolley to tour and learn a bit about our National Monuments. The city at night was so pretty and after two very intense presentation days, it was a very nice way to decompress and take in the symbolism of the place and our presence there.

Day 3

The third day was extra special!

Director Sams talked to us in the morning and thanked us for our work this summer. Many of us had a chance to ask for his advice in various forms. An experienced orator, his answers were surprisingly earnest and pragmatic. I learned a lot from what he said and even felt validated in my choice to go back to school and earn my master’s degree. Coming full circle, another highlight for the day was getting to see Millie Jimenez, again. Ten years ago, Millie was probably the first Latina I met in the NPS. I met her when I first worked in Yellowstone and was enrolled in the Youth Conservation Corps. It was great to see her thriving and being her authentic self at the side of the NPS Director. 

Later that day, I presented my art project in front of my peers. I loved hearing everyone’s story and relationship to their art. It made me hopeful about the future of the NPS. I truly wish everyone who was there to eventually find their path and become gainfully employed, successful, and happy in what they do. Thank you to everyone who not only tells us we are the future but believes it and works towards empowering and preparing us to understand our responsibilities to each other and to the world. May we always stay curious and lift each other up.

1 Comment
  • Gabriella Parra
    Posted at 16:07h, 09 August

    I love how you formatted this, and you covered the whole trip so well!

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