GEM Environmental is excited to welcome one of our new members to the team. Kassie Henrikson is our newest AmeriCorps VISTA member through Arizona Serve and Volunteer Program Coordinator.
Kassie grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and has always been passionate about nature and environmental protection. She is especially interested in science communication, biodiversity, ecological restoration, and phenology. Her hobbies include hiking, cycling, birding, and anything outdoors. Kassie values early interventions of STEM education because while she has always been passionate about nature, she did not understand the variety of career opportunities in this field until recently. She believes it is imperative to introduce young kids and young adults to STEM and Environmental education available because this field needs more awareness and more people to join if we are going to be able to manage the environmental issues our society is facing today. Welcome to the team, Kassie!
Please provide a brief description highlighting your work/area of focus.
I started my career in Environmental Restoration with a college internship at Wildlife Habitat Council. WHC focuses on working with large industries to restore land on and around their properties, so most of my work was spent restoring oak savannah and dunes habitats at a large steel mill in northwest Indiana on the southern coast of Lake Michigan. After graduating with a degree in International Business and a minor in Environmental Studies, I spent two years working as a paralegal while considering attending law school to pursue a career in environmental litigation. Ultimately, I realized that I wanted to work more hands-on with environmental issues, so I decided to pivot back to restoration work. I joined the Student Conservation Association's All Women's Crew in 2019 as an Assistant Crew Leader and returned for the 2020 season as a Crew Leader. This crew is designed to empower young women ages 18-25 to pursue careers in conservation and the environmental field by creating a safe space where they can learn together and grow professionally and individually. We worked in partnership with the Chicago Park District to help manage their natural areas throughout the Southeast side of Chicago. The crew members were trained in environmental restoration techniques including chainsaw use and chemical backpack spraying as well as in professional development. I enjoyed the training and mentoring aspect of my job the more and was inspired to pursue a career more focused on education and outreach, which is what brought me to GEM.
What do you plan to accomplish during your service term with GEM?
I hope to expand on my skills in environmental education, science communication, and volunteer recruitment and management. I also hope that by helping kids and young adults learn about nature and STEM they will be inspired to help protect our outdoor spaces and promote science.
What are your career goals?
I'm not exactly sure what I want to do after this position, but I know I want to work in science communication and community outreach in some form. I hope to work at an environmental non-profit or a nature center when I can combine my background in communication and environmental work with my passion for environmental protection, such that I can inspire others to want to protect nature as well.
Do you plan to continue your education? If so, what programs or school are you looking into and what is the highest degree you plan to earn?
I would love to continue my education, however, since I am not sure exactly where I want to go from here, I plan to wait and see if further education is necessary for my career. I am potentially interested in obtaining a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, Environmental Education, or a related field. I would be open to pursuing a doctorate degree as well if it makes sense for me to do so based on my career path in the future.
Have you had any other internship or service opportunities before this? If so, how do you believe internships have benefited you so far?
My internship in college working in environmental restoration was an invaluable experience. Even though I didn't go directly into the field, when I decided to change careers paths four years after completing my internship, I decided to start with environmental restoration because I had prior experience in the field. When I applied for SCA's All Women's Crew, I applied to be a crew member but was immediately hired on as an Assistant Crew Leader because of my previous experience in restoration from my internship. This ultimately led to me being hired the following year as a Crew Leader, which opened many doors for me when I was looking for my next steps. Even though I am now pivoting again away from restoration and more towards environmental education, my previous experience has brought me to this point and it all started with my first internship.
To learn more about Kassie click here.