Christa Wood '93
"I really liked the small community at Unity."
Graduation Year: 1993
What City/ State are you from? I grew up in Rhode Island
What City/ State to you currently live in? I currently live in northern New Jersey
Current Career Title: For the past 18 years I have been working as a park ‘Naturalist’ at the Lord Stirling Park Environmental Education Center in Basking Ridge, NJ. I love my job. Everyday is something different and I have been given the freedom to develop my own program offerings for the public. I get to work with all ages of the community from families with infants and preschoolers all the way through retired senior citizens. It has be a wonderful experience watching kids grow up participating in programs at the center, head off to college or the working world, and then stop back in to say hello or to take a hike. Occasionally, they come back and volunteer or become employed by the Park Commission.
Business/ Organization you work for: Somerset County Park Commission in New Jersey
What was your Major? I was an Outdoor Recreation major with an emphasis in Leadership.
What was your favorite thing about your time at Unity College? Did you have a favorite tradition? I really liked the small community at Unity. I liked that the professors were so approachable and flexible in regards to learning and testing styles. I liked how committed and passionate the professors were to the students, the school, and making it work.
What advice would you give to current Unity College students? The environmental education (EE) field can be a very challenging one to break into and find full time employment. Have fun with the seasonal positions that are out there. Be prepared with a fallback skill that can see you through the periods between seasonal jobs while you are gaining experience and getting established. Be willing to be flexible in where you are willing to work / live and what the job will entail. Ask people you work with and for along the way if they can recommend a next place for you to apply to as it may lead you in interesting directions.
Did you utilize career services for you internship or career search? If so, in what ways? I did utilize career services for job searches both before and for a few years after graduation. Late every fall I would head there to check the binders for prospective employment for the following summer, Thanksgiving break was spent sending out applications because the best jobs were filled by the end of January.
Where did you complete your internship(s) and what types of experiences did you have? Internships were not a big part of the educational process when I was a student. We worked for pay in the summers and wrote it up or did related projects and called them Independent Studies (for credit) when they were related to our field of interests. One summer I co-led a group of summer camp teens on a 28-day cross country ‘wilderness’ adventure – the documentation of the planning and execution was the basis for the independent study. I brought the summer camp kids to a series of locations that I wanted to visit and planned adventure activities that excited me. We went caving, rock climbing / rappelling, backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting, visited numerous national parks and monuments, and camped out the entire time. It was a trip the kids and leaders will never forget.
One of my favorite post-graduation seasonal positions was a six-month internship at Penn State’s Shavers Creek Environmental Science Center. I learned so much during that experience that upon reflection it was part of what kept me in the field.
Is your current job in your field of study, or did you end up going a different direction than you thought? My current job is related to my field of study.
Tell us a little about your current job and what it entails: I am very fortunate to be able to develop and offer programs based on my interests during the school year. In the summer I run an environmental science summer day camp for 10-13 year olds. There are a wide variety of ‘special events’ that I am involved with throughout the calendar year; maple sugaring is one of my favorites.
Are you happy in your current career? I do loving working with a wide variety of ages; one day pre-k and the next a group of senior citizen retirees. Every day is different and the cycle of tasks and assignments are ever changing based on the seasons.
Is there anything you would have done differently education wise? That is an especially tough question. I guess I wished I took more science classes but I imagine that EE majors today are required to.
Did you feel Unity College prepared you for your career? I do feel it prepared me for my career. I have also done a lot of learning on my own since then through experiences, online courses, and self guided.