While the COVID-19 pandemic pushed people to stay apart, Kaili Schroeder took it as an opportunity to connect with others – through virtual meditation and diversity and inclusion work – and with nature.
“It’s all about connection,” said Schroeder, who has earned her bachelor’s degree in human dimensions of natural resources from the Warner College of Natural Resources, understanding how humans can value, use and depend on the natural environment.
When Schroeder started a chapter of Wake-Up meditation in Fort Collins she didn’t realize the weekly groups would help her work through pandemic anxiety.
“My whole life I’ve just felt this passion to lift others up if I can, and I think in return human connection gives me energy,” Schroeder said. “Finding safe ways to connect with people and nature this year has been very important for me.”
While taking two years off after high school, the Fort Collins-born Schroeder bought a one-way ticket to travel across Europe for 10 months.
“I chose to have no plan. It gave me room to find myself,” Schroeder said. “I knew when I started school again that I wanted to serve other people, I loved storytelling, and I cared about the environment.”
Schroeder first pursued a nursing degree before a summer-long trail crew position with the Larimer County Conservation Corps in Rocky Mountain National Park pointed her to her future.
“That’s when it clicked. That’s when I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. You can get paid to work outside. I need to do this for the rest of my life.’”
A CSU advisor helped Schroeder find the human dimensions of natural resources major, which she calls “that meeting point of love of people and love of the environment.”
Schroeder became the student undergraduate representative of the Warner College Diversity Committee and helped develop the “Untold Stories” series that appears across social media, detailing the accomplishments of underserved groups in natural resources history.
While she is graduating as both a Pulliam Scholar and recipient of the J.V.K. Wagar Honor Senior Award, one of her biggest achievements this year is starting a pollinator garden as an intern at the CSU Environmental Learning Center.
“My wish for the pollinator garden is that it’s a tangible place where I’m giving back to the environment,” Schroeder said.
Kristen Wilkinson, program director at the ELC, said Schroeder’s passion for creating accessible and functional spaces in nature are evident.
“Kaili is dedicated to conservation work and involving people in that work,” Wilkinson said. “Throughout this project, she came up with creative ways for the public to get involved. Kaili knows that we accomplish our best results through community efforts.”
After graduation, Schroeder is headed to Oregon to work for the National Parks Service as an environmental interpreter at the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument. Schroeder said she is excited to start making a difference for people and nature in a career tailor-made for her passions.