December 8, 2009
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab
SRU students with the right credentials can find jobs in tough times
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - There are jobs to be had, even in tough economic times and when unemployment is at an all-time high, but you have to have the right academic major. More than 70 Slippery Rock University students majoring in parks and recreation/environmental education stood in line Wednesday for summer jobs that may lead to full-time careers in state and national parks as well as with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"This is our annual Jobs Fair for Parks and Resource Management Majors," said John Lisco, associate professor of parks and recreation/environmental education and program organizer. "I would expect between 30 and 40 of our students will land jobs."
Twenty-six park ranger/recruiters staffed more than a dozen recruitment tables in the Russell Wright Alumni House and Conference Center to talk with SRU students about their qualifications and employment possibilities at their facilities.
"These are jobs that will pay between $12 and $20 per hour and provide great field experience for the students," Lisco said.
The 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park, located between Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, was represented by Ivan Kassovic, field and park service supervisor, and Lori Neff, lead park ranger. More than 3 million visitors enjoy the park's facilities annually.
"Our park employs 80 to 100 full-time employees, but that number jumps to 150 in the summer," Neff said. "We are looking for summer workers who are ready to make a difference."
The park's scenic trails, the towpath along the Cuyahoga River Canal and other attractions draw visitors to the park.
"SRU is a prized source for our ranger program," Kassovic said. "We have had some budget problems, but there is no shortage of funds in the park ranger and law enforcement area, so we are ready to hire students."
He said because the park is preparing for the "Centennial Challenge," in 2016 when the National Parks Service celebrates its 100-year anniversary, additional funding has been set aside to allow for additional hires to help get the facility ready for the celebration.
In addition to ranger/law enforcement positions, the CVNP also employees naturalists, maintenance workers, educators, scientists, engineers and architects, among others. "And, we have an extensive summer volunteer program," Neff said.
Equally impressed with the credentials of SRU students was Chad Andrews, a U.S. park ranger at Yosemite National Park. "We have been here before and have been pleased with the quality of students applying for positions," he said.
"We are looking to hire park rangers who may not yet have field experience, but have been trained to learn how to get the job done," he said.
The park, located in California, draws 3.5 million visitors annually.
Dylon Parks, a 2005 SRU parks and resource management graduate now employed by the Delaware State Parks system, and his boss, John McCarthy, a sergeant with DSP, came to SRU to recruit freshmen, sophomores and juniors for summer jobs in their park.
Parks said he earned his first position with DSP at a similar job fair as a student. "I worked three years for the park while attending SRU," he said. Following graduation, Parks landed a permanent position and is now a ranger first class at Seashore State Park in Rehoboth, Del., one of Delaware's 24 state parks.
"We have 10 miles of beaches and 2,000 acres of park lands," Parks said.
"We are looking for anyone who is non-commissioned and ready to learn. Dr. Lisco's program provides students with the basics they need for the positions. Students we hire will be involved in park patrols, fire suppression and other activities. We want our recruits to be versed in parks and natural resource management, and we are looking for those looking to get into National Park Service work. We have been a great feeder program for Dr. Lisco's programs and a number of our summer employees have gone on to work for the National Park Service," McCarthy said.
Duane Buck, park ranger/law enforcement at Valley Forge National Park, and Gregg Tinkham, acting chief ranger at Valley Force, were at SRU recruiting, looking for a few good recruits. "Our recruits will be involved in a number of park operations, including patrols along jogging and biking paths as well as accident investigation. We have a deer population problem and that results in a number of traffic accidents. We have 53-square miles of parks, so there is a lot of activity," Tinkham said.
He said last year's visit to SRU for a similar job fair landed two students jobs for the summer and he expected similar results for one or two students this year. Both were hired to full-time position following graduation.
Larry Commisso, a 1981 SRU graduate and now a park ranger with the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, said the previous success of SRU's jobs fair drew him back again. "We have three positions to fill in our STEP - Student Team Employment Program - and a number of students already show promise," he said while conducting student interviews.
The 88,000-acre park, the eighth most visited park in the National Park System, annually draws some 8 million visitors. "We are looking for students that have the training, that are leaders and are well-grounded in law enforcement areas as well as emergency medical service and fire suppression work."
He too points to past SRU students employed at the park who have gone on to full-time careers, including James Britt, a 1992 graduate now with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Linda Alick, a 1976 graduate now a chief ranger with the National Park Service at Curecanti National Park in Colorado.
"It is clear that the summer jobs can lead to a career," Commissio said.
He also credited Lisco for organizing the fair. "Look around at the quality of state and national parks that come to Slippery Rock University to recruit. I think that shows how well the SRU program is regarded."
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.