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Student Profile Chris Emerson

Internship at the Central New York Land Trust Leads to Life-Changing Experience

By Danielle J. Gerhart

“We have every reason to not hire you, but weʼd love to offer you the job.”

Chris Emerson Thatʼs the type of job offer that could make anyone feel mixed emotions, but Chris Emerson (ʼ25, Forest Resources Management), the emailʼs recipient, felt grateful.

“I knew that the Central New York Land Trust had ample reason to seek an alternate candidate because my schedule as a college student was chaotic,” he chuckled.

Case in point: Emerson wouldnʼt be able to start working until halfway through the summer and would need to take a two-week break partway through his tenure. In the end, he would be available to work for only 30 days. He suspects he was given a chance for a couple of reasons: The interview went well, and he is getting his education at ESF.

Of course, he accepted the offer, and the experience is one he is sure to remember. Emerson was hired as an intern on the Stewardship team, which is responsible for maintaining more than 50 preserves in the Central New York region. The team is
comprised of two full-time employees, plus Emerson.

“There was plenty of work to be done and no excess of staff . The team would juggle tasks masterfully and transition from one to another with a flexibility that I admired. One day we would be trudging through a swamp trying to find our property boundary and mark it; another day we would be serving as the face of the organization, meeting stakeholders, and engaging in fundraising,” he said.

Chris Emerson and 3 other people in a fieldIn his role, Emerson practiced adaptability, resourcefulness, and balancing being a team player and working independently. Having previously served four-and-a-half years as a Fire Support Specialist in the U.S. Army, these are skills he already knew well.

Emerson reflected on the benefits of the Land Trustʼs ability to make decisions they feel are best for maintaining their properties without feeling bound to decisions based on revenue. He also found that he enjoyed interacting with volunteers, supporters, and the public.

“Those days were among the most rewarding of all,” he said. “Nearly all of the fundraising events put me face to face with the people for whom we maintain our properties and those willing to put aside their free time to improve the preserves. I was able to rub shoulders with like-minded community members who didnʼt mind hard work and had a love for the outdoors.”

Emerson had never considered a career in the non-profit sector, but is open to the possibility now, thanks to his experience with the CNY Land Trust. He expects to graduate in May 2025 and is looking forward to pursuing a path in forest service.

“My internship endowed me with skills I will be able to take with me through my education and into the professional world.”

The ESF Regional Internship Program, funded through the Betsy and Jesse Fink Career Development Program, is a summer internship program organized by the Office of Career Services. This program connects ESF students with local employers annually for several paid opportunities.

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