Cohort 18 at Skalitude Retreat Center. October, 2018

Meet the Graduate Students, Class of 2020!

This is part 4 in the series: Meet the Graduate M.Ed. Students

This is part 1 of our Cohort 18 Graduate Student Introductions. Click to view part 2 and part 3!

After two months in the field, learning, getting to know each other, and taking many 90s band photos, the new graduate students from the 18th Cohort have finally settled into their Residency in the North Cascades! Each member of our cohort will bring their unique backgrounds, experiences, and personalities to the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center as they continue to learn and engage with our new home. In my work study position as blog post writer and editor, I’ve been tasked with continuing the tradition of allowing all of these weird, wild and wonderful individuals to introduce themselves.

Below is part one of a three-part series, sharing with you a brief look at who we are, where we are coming from, why we’re here. If you work or play around the  learning center, you are likely to run into us, so take a few minutes to get to know us here!

Matt Ferrell:

Your humble blog writer, backcountry skiing in Glacier National Park! Photo by Elizabeth Garrets

Growing up north of the Columbia River, close to both city and wilderness, my childhood was split between playing in the forest, and going to plays and concerts in nearby Portland, Oregon. Having experienced the best of the Pacific Northwest’s culture and natural world gave me a great appreciation for both wild nature and the arts. However, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the theater. I participated in many plays in high school and ultimately attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, where I received a bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts.

My passion for the outdoors was born during a summer job I took in Yellowstone National Park in 2009. I returned to Bellingham that fall to find myself spending much of my free time outside, exploring the forest around campus. I would return to Yellowstone for two more seasons, and by the time I graduated from Western, it was clear that the rugged, simple beauty  and active lifestyle of the mountains is where my true heart lies. I spent the next several years traveling the west and working seasonally, including two winters in Big Sky, Montana (where I learned to love skiing), and three seasons as an Interpretive Ranger and Environmental Educator in Glacier National Park.

I am pursuing a degree in Environmental Education because I believe, from my own experiences, in the transformative power of the natural world. My goal is to engage with communities and empower people to explore the wild places around them. I believe as a society we need to do a better job of enhancing scientific literacy to build better relationships between people and the natural systems we belong to. I am very excited to spend a year in this beautiful place, and am already blown away by the beauty of the landscape and the inspirational people we’ve met. Plus, it’s pretty cool to go backpacking for grad school.

Carson Yach:

Carson in his Natural Environment Photo by Thumper Ormerod

Growing up on the east side of the Cascades on the banks of two major rivers, the Spokane and Clark Fork in Northern Idaho, my life has always been focused on interacting with the natural world around me.  From camping trips with my family, to learning how to  boat along these rivers, I fell in love with the outdoors at a young age and always dreamed of ways to get out and explore these vast and wild lands of the Pacific Northwest. As I grew up and finished high school, I took part in the American tradition of leaving home and going west, and soon found a new home in the Cascades around the Mt. Baker and Bellingham areas.  For the next decade, I joined a community of passionate outdoor adventurers willing to go without finical gain and daily comforts in exchange for wild and, at times, insane experiences exploring the world via any means possible.

Over the years, I have spent my summers working as a river and wilderness guide, in both Interior and Southeast Alaska, running rivers, climbing mountains, and avoiding the millions of mosquitos that live there. My time there was as dynamic as the weather, and every day was a new adventure working with at-risk youth from all over Alaska in a wilderness therapy program, helping to build kids’ self-esteem and confidence while also teaching life skills and outdoors knowledge.  While the summers were busy and always on the move, my winters were also never dull as I was passionately and, at times exclusively, focused on exploring these amazing Cascade mountains with snowboards and skis underfoot, learning how to safely move in this ever-changing land, while building relationships with some of the best friends and community I could ever ask for.

After spending close to a decade dirt-bagging around the Pacific Northwest, I decided that I should help share these amazing and unique experiences, gained from the land I love, with others.  Thus, before I knew it, I was unpacking from another summer of adventure in Alaska and re-packing for a year of school in a familiar, but new, region of the North Cascades.  The chance to go back to school to earn a master’s degree in Environmental Education, in a new and experimental focus, has called me back from the wilderness and reignited my passion for sharing and building a loving and adventurous community in a land  with unlimited potential.  Building new relationships and community, while gaining more experience teaching, and finding ways of connecting others to the land they live and work, is without question a huge part of this experience. I am passionate about protecting the world that we all live in, and helping others find their relationship with their homeland, by building strong communities that can lead to a more sustainable way of life.

So far, the past two months has been a whirlwind of experiences, emotions, and new lessons. From connecting to the community of Highway 20 on both east and west sides of these mountains, to building our own unique community of grad students here at the ELC and in Marblemount, we are all on our way to finding out who we are and what we want to do with this one wild and beautiful life we have all been given. I look forward to all of the new experiences and lessons that are ahead of us in these coming months and the skills that we will gain as educators, and aware and respectful, human beings.

Amy Fitkin:

Amy at Hawkwatch on Chelan Ridge Photo by Nichola Follis

There was never a time that I didn’t think I would end up working in a field that revolved around science. As a kid I was a future marine biologist, herpetologist, archeologist, and pediatrician depending on the year. To no one’s surprise, I entered into college pursuing a degree in Biology in hopes of attending Medical School to become a doctor. It didn’t take me long however to discover that my interests lay in the outdoors and to share those experiences with both kids and adults alike. I therefore left the University of San Diego with a degree in basic Biology, in pursuit of a path I could use my knowledge for something meaningful and impactful. That first came into fruition with Wildlife Biology, as I worked as a field technician for a few seasons.

The moments that I enjoyed the most were when I had the opportunity to engage with the public and present the research and provide educational outreach. Now with education on my mind, I began to research environmental education and quickly landed on North Cascades Institute. I recalled my experience attending Mountain School as a 7th grader and the passion and excitement the instructors had and how it shaped how I learned, and knew that was the correct path for me.

I think this photo represents me very accurately. Having so much excitement and curiosity about nature and learning about the hawk migration, but also struggling to stay warm. If I could have a mediocre superpower, it would be to have the capability to thermoregulate!

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out part 2 and part 3!

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