Marley Smith went to a reception just expecting a free lunch. She came away as Student of the Year during Colorado State University’s inaugural Career Impact Awards banquet.
“When they read my name, I was just shocked,” she said.
The new awards banquet honors 11 different individuals or organizations who promote, advocate, and integrate career initiatives into their role whether on- or off-campus. As Student of the Year, Smith was chosen because she exemplified leadership in her own career development and has inspired her peers to develop their own career experiences.
Since the fall of 2016, Smith, a forestry student in the Forest and Rangeland Stewardship department, has been a Student Ambassador for the U.S Forest Service. This student leadership role is part of a pilot partnership program between CSU and the U.S. Forest Service intended to increase the participation of underrepresented minority groups in natural resource and forest service careers.
In this role, Smith seeks to connect a more diverse, up-and-coming student workforce with skills they need for future careers in natural resource fields. She organizes outreach efforts with prospective students from diverse backgrounds, works with the Career Center to design workshops to build resumes and practice interview skills, and recruits and helps to train students to participate in a CSU-USFS internship program.
“To do my job better and efficiently, I forced myself to get involved, which has benefitted me more than I can ever express,” she said. “I have a community not only around me but guiding me and showing me different perspectives about Forest Service careers.”
She has also been the department’s representative in partnering with CSU’s Office of Admissions to host high school students at CSU. During STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) events, she has shown younger students that majors and careers in natural resources are attainable. She knows this personally.
Smith pursued a customized work experience last summer. Of Hawaiian descent, she found new professional and cultural interests by conducting fieldwork for the state of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. She gained valuable experience outside Colorado by identifying rare plants and birds, measuring vegetation and trees in a different ecosystem, and evaluating local management objectives.
All these experiences ran through Smith’s mind as she accepted her award, but her initial thoughts turned outward. She said there were so many different people to thank from all facets of her life.
“I always give credit to those who helped me, because I didn’t get here by myself,” she said.
When sharing this experience with FRS department staff, she learned that the nomination was a collaborative effort by faculty and advisors. She said this showed her that students can be a bridge between academia and the professional world.
“I always feel very loved by this department,” she said. “This reassured me that I’m very much appreciated and people recognize and see what I’m doing, and that it’s causing a positive impact somewhere.”
Student Group of the Year: MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences). This student organization encouraged member participation in career centered events by actively promoting career seeking or preparation events and services.