Alumni share their experience with the Future Park Leaders internship program

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What does it mean to become a Future Park Leaders intern? To get a better idea of the internships, we reached out to some past alumni to share their personal experiences, memories, and lasting benefits of the program. The Future Park Leaders of Emerging Change internship program pays upper level undergraduate and graduate students over the summer to work in a unit of the National Park System. Each internship is valuable and unique because it directly relates to the needs of the individual park. Projects encompass natural and cultural resource conservation, park infrastructure, policy development, interpretation and education, and addressing management challenges arising from global drivers of environmental change.


Minh Phan at Fire Island National Seashore. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Minh Phan, 2017 graduate intern, shares his experience living and working at Fire Island National Seashore

Honestly one of the best experiences of my life. I got to live at the beach in a national park for a couple of months– what’s better than that? I also got to work on a great project alongside three other national parks (Assateague NS, Cape Cod NS, and Gateway NRA) to establish open dialogue about the various actions each park was taking to address issues centered on climate change. Part of the process included virtual monthly meetings to share our action plans and strategies and bounce ideas off each other. I even made trips to visit the some of the parks in person such as Cape Cod and Gateway!


Malcolm Wells working with the South Florida and Caribbean Inventory and Monitoring Network at Everglades National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Malcolm Wells, 2018 undergraduate intern, got to be behind the scenes

I worked on investigating trends in soil elevation related to hurricanes and how these events are impacting mangrove communities.The whole thing was so unique —  I got to be behind the scenes with everything related to the park from being on boats, to using GPS devices, to talking to people way above my pay grade and sitting in on meetings. My advice would be to try to engage in as many resume-building activities — such as workshops or certifications like CPR, vehicle, or fire training — that you possibly can. And understand that you get out what you put in! The more questions you ask and the more upfront you are with your mentor, the more you will receive.



Shanasia Sylman at Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Shanasia Sylman, 2017 graduate intern, talks about her success using direct hire authority (DHA)

Throughout the internship, they had webinars that indicated the importance of the DHA to which I paid close attention, and it really does help you out. I got my current job as a planner for the National Park Service because of my DHA status. The DHA process is still very new, so if you can find someone who is willing to take that journey with you, go for it!

NETWORK! During this internship, it’s crucial for you to exercise your informational interview skills and sit in on meetings when you can, so you know what is going on. You never know what will lead you to your next job, and it’s important to pay attention.


The Future Park Leaders of Emerging Change (FPL) is a program of the National Park Service (NPS) and co-managed by the Ecological Society of America.

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