Alumni Stories—Kelly Standerfer
BS, Forestry, 2003
Current job/field: Forester
Employer: DNRE, Kalkaska Field Office
Since graduating from Michigan Tech WAY BACK in 2003 (time flies in the real world!), I have had the opportunity to work for four different companies. As I look back, all four of the jobs have been challenging in their own ways, and most importantly, each one has broadened my background in forestry.
During my freshman year at Michigan Tech, I was fortunate enough to get a summer job with a paper company in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (UP). I would continue to work for this company for the following three summers, including the summer after my graduation. During this time, I was exposed to many sides of forestry, from regeneration work to timber harvesting to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tasks. Pairing this real-world experience with my forestry classes at Michigan Tech, I knew I was well on my way to a field I would enjoy.
Roughly three months after graduation I started my second job, which was at a very reputable urban tree-service company. This job was a lot of hard work and was, unfortunately, in the city, but nonetheless, I really enjoyed it. I definitely don't regret taking this position, but I knew that I had to get back to the woods where I belonged.
For job number three, I worked as a conservation district forester. This job threw different challenges at me every day, and if not for another great job opportunity, I would very likely still be in this position.
Finally to job number four and, hopefully, the last one for a long time. I am now working as a forester with state government. With this job, I have had the opportunity to do firefighting, both in and out of state, as well as a ton of other forestry work. Having been in my current position now for over six years, it is amazing how fast time flies and equally amazing how fast technology changes in the forestry field. We now have the fancy Global Positioning System (GPS) units with aerial imagery loaded right on them and all sorts of other bells and whistles. During your college career, it’s impossible to learn everything you will need to know for potential future jobs but the baseline knowledge that I gained at Tech and the “learning how to learn” aspect of Tech’s courses have been invaluable throughout my career. Having had the opportunity to work with fellow foresters who have attended numerous colleges throughout the country, I am always impressed with the knowledge and know-how of the “Techies.”
A few recommendations I would make to folks who are approaching the end of their high school years or just starting college would be to try to get decent grades and take on leadership roles both in high school and college; take as many electives relevant to your field as you can squeeze into your college career; ask questions in class (make those professors work for their money :-); and last but not least, try to get as much experience under your belt as soon as you can, even if it means volunteering. Oh yah, and don't forget to enjoy it—the UP is the only place to learn the basics of forestry, and an awesome place to enjoy God's great outdoors.