Students prepare for the future with help from scholarships

Tim EiseleStevens Point—They are bright and talented, good reason that those of us who hunt and fish should take comfort in knowing that future natural resources should be well-managed.

They are students majoring in natural resources at the UW-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources.  In March, students who were receiving scholarships attended the annual scholarship awards program at the Sentry Theater where they were introduced and received official announcement of their scholarships.

This year the College awarded 211 scholarships totaling about $181,525 (not including some Paper Science and Engineering Scholarships which account for an additional 60 awards).

According to Steve Menzel, development director of the College of Natural Resources, this is about a 20% increase over last year and is the largest number of awards and dollars that have ever been distributed by the College.

Of course it doesn’t come close to helping all the 1,625 undergraduate students in the College, many of whom need financial assistance as tuition, fees and room and board are about $14,000 per year.

Many students have jobs to help pay the costs yet still leave school with the burden of debt.  So a $500 or $1,000 scholarship can make a big difference, and the honor of receiving a scholarship can be helpful on their resume.

Watching the young men and women walk across the elevated state to receive scholarships still gives reason for confidence.  Many are undergraduate students, and beside the regular studies they conduct research and work with conservation organizations.

For instance, Nathan Huck, of Berlin, Wisconsin, received a scholarship tailored for students with an interest in waterfowl or law enforcement.  Huck not only has a very high grade point average, but he serves as vice-president of the Students for Wetland Awareness, Management and Practices Organization.  He is a member of the Wildlife Society and co-founder of the UW-SP Chapter of Delta Waterfowl.

An avid hunter, Huck has worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the summer studying shorebirds in North Dakota, and has spent time banding lesser scaup ducks on the Mississippi River in Iowa, and puddle ducks in Montana.

Talk about a qualified individual for some natural resources agency to snap up as a beginning biologist.  Except that Huck plans to go to graduate school and conduct more research.

The UW-S.P. scholarships include those interested in fisheries, forestry, as well as wildlife, and law enforcement.  Several scholarships are given in memory of Wisconsin conservation wardens, of which the newest is the Wisconsin Conservation Warden Association Tyler Kreinz memorial Scholarship, in honor of Kreinz who wanted to be a warden but was killed while on duty serving in Afghanistan.

The irony of the scholarships is that these talented, qualified young people will be working in agencies, such as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which are led by people who don’t have half the natural resources education that the students do.

It used to be that the DNR secretary and secretary’s deputy and assistant secretary were selected by a citizen board from within the agency and often had worked in natural resources for many years and held degrees in biological sciences.

That was often true when a citizen commission or board picked the secretary and deputies from within the agency.  Secretaries such as Les Voigt, Buzz Besadny, and George Meyer all came up through the ranks.

That’s not true any longer, as the governor now picks the secretary and approves that person’s assistants.  Since 2010, the Wisconsin DNR has been led by Cathy Stepp, who is a former homebuilder and has no working experience in natural resources although she did serve on the Natural Resources Board for 3 years.

Deputy Secretary Matt Maroney majored in political science and economics at Loras College, and then received his law degree from the University of Iowa.  He was previously executive director of the Metropolitan Builders Association of Greater Milwaukee.

Scott Gunderson, assistant secretary with considerable influence over the wildlife and fisheries management bureaus, has no college degree.  He served in the state legislature for 16 years chairing the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.

It is indeed interesting, how young people need to have a strong college background in order to enter into the natural resources field, but those who are selected to lead the agency are people who have political connections to the governor and are looked at more for their social skills, and perhaps communications skills, than for their knowledge of natural resources.
Having knowledgeable people down in the trenches doing the day-to-day work is a great asset, and helps to keep management of natural resources based on the biological sciences.  Those of us who hunt and fish can take satisfaction in knowing that the new people who will be coming on-board in future years have strong educational and field experiences in natural resources.
But along their professional career path, they will need to develop relationships with politicians and fine-tune their social skills if they have any hope of leading an agency as long as politicians are pulling the strings from behind the state service curtain.

Anyone who would like to donate to any of the scholarships given at UW-Stevens Point should contact Steve Menzel at Steve.Menzel@uwsp.edu.

Categories: Wisconsin – Tim Eisele

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