Finishing college and heading into the world of work is a different experience for each of Tusculum’s alumni, but for many, such as Kristen Lane ’14, the transition was organic in its development and in her continued work with Tusculum College’s environmental science program.
Lane, currently serves as an AmeriCorps intern for the Middle Nolichucky Watershed Alliance, and continues to work with Tusculum College science departments, as well as Tusculum students in other programs volunteering in environmental programs in the community. Additionally, she credits Tusculum faculty with helping her make the connections to put her in the right place at the right time for the intern opportunity.
“Dr. Keller was very involved with the Middle Nolichucky Watershed Alliance and helped me to get my foot in the door,” said Lane, adding that as a field guide naturalist major, she had a lot of interaction with the faculty during her time at Tusculum that led to long-term relationships.
Kristen Lane gets to return to campus often, working with students from the College and those from local schools at the Paul E. Hayden Educational Wetland or sharing information with Tusculum students about the volunteer opportunities available with the Middle Nolichucky Watershed Alliance.
Dr. Melissa Keller, assistant professor of biology and former professor Dan Barnett was instrumental in helping Lane land that first position and in serving as resources for her in her first few months after graduation.
As part of her service, Lane is responsible for developing, implementing and evaluating service learning projects with target outcomes to a wide range of participants, maintaining and expanding community partnerships and capacity building for the Middle Nolichucky Watershed Alliance. She also handles volunteer coordination and management, which is another path that keeps her in contact with the Tusculum community.
“Many of the skills I developed at Tusculum,” said Lane. “In addition to the academic base, I developed a lot of skills through my participation in student organizations on campus, things like being self-directed, detail oriented and thinking creatively.”
During her years at Tusculum, Lane led the Pioneer Green Team, an environmental student organization, as its president and found herself planning events, recruiting volunteers and setting up strategies for educating the public, all of which is in her job description at the Middle Nolichucky Watershed Alliance.
“Being involved with several on campus organizations and being a national service member has given me experience in public speaking, reaching, networking, organizing volunteers, developing community partnerships, maintaining public relations and leading and cooperating in team environments,” she said. In addition to the Green Team, she was a representative for Voices Against Violence and served as both representative and senator for the Student Government Association.
In her AmeriCorps position, she puts her skills toward grant writing and projects involving restoration work, but there is also a strong educational component, working with elementary school students at the wetlands and giving community presentations. She also calls on her relationships often that she built while attending Tusculum.
“We have a strong partnership with Tusculum College, particularly the science areas and the biology and environmental science classes,” she said. She also calls on Tusculum often for volunteer work because of the community engagement focus, particularly with service learning courses.
“The Earth Day program that I coordinated as president of the Pioneer Green Team is very similar to projects I do now, like the Energy Fair. My experience in planning a project was very helpful. I learned how to do things on my own time and it was a great experience that is similar to the way I work now.”
While at Tusculum, Lane was the recipient of the Doug Ratledge Environmental Science Scholarship, awarded to an outstanding student majoring in environmental science or the field guide naturalist program. Serving with the Middle Nolichucky Watershed Alliance, she also gets to share her love for environmental science with others.
Her advice to current students is to build relationships with faculty. “If you haven’t built these relationships after four years you may have missed the boat,” said Lane. “The faculty are great resources for networking in your field.”
She also encourages building leadership skills through clubs and organizations, which she says is a great way to learn how organizations work, as well as a safe way to learn and try things and see what works.
“For those that have never heard of the AmeriCorps program, it is very similar to the Peace Corps but on the domestic front,” said Lane. “AmeriCorps offers a living stipend and educational stipend upon successful completion of service, which can be full or part-time. It’s an honor to be a part of this program, and I would recommend it to undergraduates looking for professional experience and meaningful service to the community.”