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Career Story: Director Of A Publicly-Funded Wildlife Education Center

Director Of A Publicly-Funded Wildlife Education Center

Job Title: Center Director

Type of Company: My center provides wildlife conservation programs for schools, colleges and the general public. We also have an exhibit hall and do green building tours.

Education: BS,Wildlife Biology •• MS, Natural Resources/Environmental Education

Previous Experience: I worked as an educator at various nature centers and then became a full-time classroom teacher for four years. After that, I trained teachers in environmental education materials through our state wildlife agency for four years. Then I directed the Interpretation and Environmental Education Program for our state park system, training park rangers. I subsequently became a program coordinator at a wildlife education center and was promoted to center director.

Job Tasks: As the director of a state wildlife education center, I provide the resources and materials needed by my staff of eleven to educate the public about our wildlife resources and the state government agency that protects our wildlife. I do budgeting, long-range planning, hiring, firing, and coaching for success. I also contract for services, such as exhibit repair and vehicle maintenance, and process purchases above $2,500. I network and promote the wildlife education center and recruit and train volunteers. I am responsible for managing grants and writing reports. I serve on committees with other nature center directors. I deal with customer service issues, parking problems, and safety concerns. I also help to maintain our rain gardens and detention wetland and do trail maintenance.

My day is full of meetings, phone calls, emails, and many interruptions. It's really all about helping other people to be successful and ensuring that our education programs are of the highest quality and meet the needs of our agency. Currently, my state is in a financial crisis. Most spending is not allowed. If anyone resigns or retires, we are not allowed to hire a new person to take their place. We have to be creative and thrifty to continue to provide programs and services. If the financial crisis continues, we will have to cut some of our services. Times like these are challenging, but I try to remember the most important goal is helping people learn about and conserve wildlife. The wild critters can't speak for themselves!

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is seeing children, youth and adults learning to appreciate and understand wildlife and their habitats. The worst part of the job is the stress of the current financial crisis and wondering if our education center will be eliminated due to budget cuts.

Job Tips:
1.) Training in leadership, management and supervisory skills is very important.

2.) Find a good mentor, someone who is really successful as a leader and who can help you improve. You'll need a good coach who can encourage you when you are discouraged and who has confidence in you.

3.) Always strive to improve by accepting and working on constructive feedback from employees, supervisors and others.

Additional Thoughts: I wish that I had had the opportunity to get more training in being a good supervisor and leader before I was promoted to center director. With state government jobs, there is often not much money for training, so you have to be motivated to look for training opportunities on your own. In striving to "get to the top," don't neglect friendships, family and faith.

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