Native Professional Development Program accepts 12 students

Students that were part of the 2019 Native Student Professional Development program. Credit: TWS

Twelve students will be gearing up for career and learning opportunities at the TWS 2021 Virtual Conference as part of the Native Student Professional Development program this year.

The program offers free conference registration, the pairing of students with individual mentors, one-year membership in The Wildlife Society and the Native Peoples’ Wildlife Management Working Group, a stipend for trainings, wildlife career panel discussion, networking events, exclusive workshops and engagement with TWS leadership.

“I don’t think people understand how important this is to the people in the program,” saidTy Werdel, the program coordinator and a PhD candidate in natural resources at Kansas State University. “It really helps the students to succeed in wildlife management and biology positions.”

Werdel participated in the program in 2014-2015, and he’s still friends with everyone who joined the program that year. “It’s a pretty closely knit group of people,” he said, adding that he still works with many of the people he met through the program, bouncing ideas off other members.

“There’s no way I’d be where I’m at today without having participated in this,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be running this because it’s helped my journey so much.”

Werdel said it’s difficult for any student to break into professional organizations, and doubly so for Indigenous students. “TWS is really working hard for inclusiveness and diversity. But we see in our profession, and all over the country, that we’re underrepresented,” he said. “When you see people like you excelling, it can be really inspiring and with TWS you get that opportunity.”

With the program providing the chance for students to network with Indigenous wildlife professionals, they can overcome some of the potential obstacles to achieving success.

Since it is the second consecutive time TWS is hosting its annual conference virtually, Native Student Professional Development program coordinators have learned a little about how to improve networking opportunities in an online setting. As a result, they will provide mentors to help students navigate the conference, and there will also be an online meeting room exclusive to program participants.

“We’re excited about the panels and the networking we’ve got going on,” Werdel said. “I think it’s going to be really beneficial, even though it isn’t in person.”

For more information about the TWS Annual Conference click here.

Joshua LearnJoshua Rapp Learn is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact him at jlearn@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about his article.

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