Environment and Natural Resources

Nathan King


Nathan King graduated from UW in 2004 with a B.S. in History. He is now a Regional Digital Communications Specialist and Web Manager for the National Park Service.

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

First Job after College

My first internship out of college was with the Student Conservation Association, where I worked in visitor services at Glacier National Park. I was very fortunate to have forward-thinking leaders who inspired us to go above and beyond and really exceed expectations. It was weird to suddenly be the expert on 1.1 million-acre national park after a couple weeks of training, but I got great experience helping people at visitor center information desks in the St. Mary and Logan Pass visitor centers, and leading boat tours and hikes in the mountains. It was the most radically life-altering experience in my life, a sort of awakening. It was my John Muir moment. I didn’t want to leave when it was over.

How I Got My Current Job

Luckily, I was hired back at Glacier as a ranger the next summer, and I continued to work there for several summer seasons. I bounced between parks for several years, first as a seasonal employee, and eventually as a permanent employee: Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota, Fort Larned National Historic Site in Kansas, and the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, DC. As you might expect, I got very good at packing and moving; by my count I moved nineteen times in seven years.

Luck would have it that I came along at a time that parks were just developing their first- or second-generation websites, which interested me greatly, and I was able to work on web content and assist with the earliest prototypical social media strategies for the National Park Service. That experience earned me several awards, and built my skills and confidence to make a difference in the field of digital communications. When my current job was created, I knew it was a perfect fit because it combined all of my interests.

What about Grad School

I enjoyed the public history aspect of my job and when my future in the NPS was still uncertain, I considered pursuing an advanced degree to perhaps teach history. Many of my colleagues who do professional history work for the National Park Service either have or are pursuing graduate degrees. If I were to go into grad school now, I would probably do something in public lands management, which would help me transition into a higher position with the NPS.

Skills I Learned as a History Major

What appealed to me most about history was seeing the big picture and gaining a deeper understanding of the world. Particularly, I am interested in how everything is interconnected, and how small changes can affect whole systems, whether it’s political, spiritual, economic, or environmental. It’s fair to say I’m interested in everything, and history is about everything.

My unique skill set combines knowledge of history, science, and nature with mastered skills in public speaking, writing, web development, and social media. Primarily, the ability to do research and distill all that knowledge into a message that is factually correct, relevant, understandable, and resonates with the audience is key. While working as a park ranger, I did extensive research on historical topics using primary and secondary sources, and turned that research into original programs and products that helped park visitors connect with things that happened in the parks. I still get to do some of that work, but now I spend more time guiding others and helping to solve problems. I was fortunate to be in a position to coordinate the creation of the NPS’s World War I site (www.nps.gov/worldwari), and wrote several of the articles that appear on that site. Projects like that are my favorite!

Advice for Students

The most important thing is to follow your passion and do what you like, not what others expect of you. My more practical advice is to not expect to get handed a job just for graduating from college. You have to network and seek out opportunities along the way. Build experience that will set you apart from the rest.

Maura Adams


Maura AdamsMaura Adams graduated from UW-Madison in 2001 with a double major in History and Biological Aspects of Conservation. She is the Program Director of the Northern Forest Center in Concord, New Hampshire.

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

My Work Life

I’m a program director for a non-profit that revitalizes rural communities in the Northern Forest of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, a region that’s redefining what it means to be a “forest economy” after the decline of industrial forest landownership and forest products manufacturing over the past several decades. We provide direct support for local wood heat, community forests, wood products manufacturing, recreation tourism, and other sectors that help diversify the economy and steward the landscape, and we’re also working intensively in a few communities to create conditions that make those towns more attractive to younger generations. A typical day includes several meetings (e.g. checking on the status of updates to our wood heat marketing website, planning a regional wood heat leadership summit, discussing how we’ll measure outcomes of our mountain biking program. I often have some grant-writing or grant reporting on my schedule, maybe a blog or program update to write for our communications team. It’s a diverse collection of work that goes from very specific/tactical to very broad/conceptual in seconds. At least 4-5 days a month I’m on the road in the Northern Forest to meet with partners, visit project sites, etc. It’s a beautiful place to travel and always reminds me how lucky I am to live and work here!

First Job after College

Right after college I had a short-term internship at a “conservation subdivision” outside Chicago, writing about environmental stewardship for residents. I’d approached the leadership team about working there after learning about it for my senior thesis, which looked at the history of suburbia and the notion of “suburban environmentalism.” It was very independent, self-guided work, which I liked, but they didn’t have enough for me to do and I could only come up with so many projects on my own. The job shaped my perspective on environmentalism because even though it was a “conservation subdivision” with green buildings and conserved prairie instead of the usual subdivision with McMansions spread far apart and leaving no open space, it still felt over-consumptive and unnatural. I learned more about the kind of environmentalism I wanted to promote… though it took me a while to get there.

How I Got My Current Job

My career hasn’t been linear at all! I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left UW. I had that writing internship, then was going to work at an organic farm for the summer and see where that led, but the farm fell through so I took a couple of short-term summer jobs (a “Farm in the City” camp and an attempt to build a phytoremediation program for a youth service corps, of all things) and then spent 8 months as a “social justice intern” at a Quaker center near Philadelphia. I’d been interested in Quakers for a while and admired their social justice work. This was shortly after 9/11 and many of us were concerned about preventing war in Iraq. I didn’t get paid, but I did get free room and board and the opportunity to take classes. I volunteered for a few non-profits in the area, wrote poetry, made art, and applied to grad school – I wanted to combine my interest in environmentalism with my passion for social justice. I decided to go to the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and spent the summer before school started working as a “community forester” in New Haven, planting native plants and trees in vacant lots and along sidewalks in partnership with low-income residents. During grad school I became interested in urban restoration ecology – understanding and restoring urban landscapes, like Prospect Park or the Bronx River Forest in New York City. I wanted to do something in that field, but I applied for a wide variety of jobs and the first one offered to me was managing an energy reduction program at Harvard University. I wasn’t especially interested in energy stuff but it seemed like a good opportunity. I spent a year there before moving north to New Hampshire to be with my now-husband, and my first NH job focused on municipal natural resource protection… before the organization went in a different direction and focused on green buildings instead. So I was back to thinking about energy reduction and the built environment, which I wasn’t too excited about. I did that for a couple years and then took a job as Environmental Stewardship Manager at a prep school, where I got to delve into lots of different topics: advance energy efficiency projects, teach classes like Environmental Ethics & Literature, get the dining hall to start using local foods, etc. I was there for five years but had a very difficult time with my boss and the culture. That’s when I discovered the Northern Forest Center! I came on as wood heat program director, and was excited about it not so much for the wood heat work but because I loved the Center’s outlook on communities and social change. Now my job’s evolved to encompass community revitalization more broadly (not just wood heat / energy stuff) and finally I’m working every day to promote the kind of relationship between humans and the natural world that I’ve had in mind since UW.

Biggest Influence in Shaping My Career Path

My sense of responsibility to a greater good has profoundly shaped my career path. I have always sought jobs that make a positive difference in the world, trying to match my talents/interests to a place/cause/community where they’d be most impactful.

Skills I learned as a History Major

I’m always thinking about the history behind the places, organizations, economic conditions, etc. that compose my work, and this has made me a more effective professional. It’s easier to connect with others if you try to understand where they came from, and easier to create programs that help communities if you know why those communities are the way they are. My history major helped me learn to ask questions about the past and how to interpret what I learn to impact what we’re doing today.

Advice for Students

Research the non-profits doing work that interests you, or in places you might want to live. Introduce yourself to people who work there. If you’re especially inspired by a person or organization, tell them you’d like to find a way to join the team someday, in some capacity – don’t be afraid to express honest ambition. Then follow up! Develop a network of informal advisors/mentors and go back to them with questions as your career evolves. Ask those individuals for contacts or ideas when you’re looking for a new job or moving to a new area. The non-profit community is quite well-networked, and people like to help. I’ve gotten most of my jobs because of relationships I’d built or because I was willing to put myself out there and ask for a job or introduction. Also, at a non-profit like mine it’s good to have a variety of experiences and not get too focused on a particular way of thinking. You’re better prepared to take on big, complex problems if you have a lot to drawn on and aren’t tied to a certain of doing things or an expert in one very specific thing.

I’m proud to be a UW History alumna and think about certain classes and projects often. The major directly and profoundly affected who I’ve become and how I work. I’m grateful for this opportunity to reflect on my experience at UW and how it launched my career!

Nathan Johnson


Nathan JohnsonNathan Johnson graduated from UW  in 2006 with a B.A. in History and Spanish. He is now a Park Manager with the South Carolina State Park Service at Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site.

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

My Work Life

I am a park manager with the South Carolina State Park Service at Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site. There are some routines to managing and operating a site, but the work is really varied. From giving house tours and performing maintenance work to conducting research and developing strategic plans and budgets, it is a daily act of juggling needs and priorities.

First Job After College

My first job after college was interning as a historical interpreter at Fort Sumter National Monument. I had interned there the previous summer, between my junior and senior years, and was invited back for a full year after graduation. I loved every part of that internship. It set me on the path to becoming a ranger. Within a couple of years of that first internship, I landed a permanent (non-seasonal) position there as a park guide with the National Park Service.

How I Got My Current Job

My career path has been linear in that I have moved up from intern to frontline ranger to supervisor to manager, all working at historic sites. But in other ways, it hasn’t been linear. I worked at several different parks to get here. I have moved from South Carolina to Washington, DC, and back to South Carolina. After serving thirteen years with the National Park Service, I also decided to change agencies and started working for the South Carolina State Park Service.

Biggest Influence in Shaping My Career Path

It is difficult to pinpoint one influence in shaping my career, but there’s an important trajectory. Generally, if my parents had not taken me on road trips to visit museums and historic sites when I was a kid, I might not have developed a passion for history. Without that early interest in the past, I might not have chosen to major in history at the University of Wisconsin. If my advisor AJ DuBois had not suggested a career in public history as a viable option and she had not shown me the path, I would not have found that first internship to get my foot in the door.

Skills I Learned as a History Major

The methodologies, approaches, and frameworks that professors taught in the classroom have been most relevant to my career. Their teaching gave me the training as a professional historian that I needed to ground my work in the field. Two professors provided insights during their 300 and 400-level courses that greatly influenced me from the outset and have stuck with me all these years. Susan Lee Johnson introduced me to the concept of distinguishing between memory and history. Her work further taught me how to do social history by diving into everyday people’s lives. Stephen Kantrowitz burned away the haze of nostalgia that surrounds the Civil War era and taught me how to analyze primary sources from opposing perspectives in their historical context. Both taught with such passion and they showed me how to be an effective instructor who imparts meaningful, lasting lessons.

Advice for Students

Looking back, I wish I had been more involved with the historical community at the University of Wisconsin. I was not part of any club and I never really talked to any professors or other history students. It’s important to be connected to other people in your field. I realized that soon after entering the workforce, but I wish I had done more networking while I was an undergraduate.

Get real job experience in the history field while you are still a student. Talk to your advisor or professors for ideas and then realize it’s up to you to make it happen. Once you get an internship or job, work on building trust and respect between yourself and your team/supervisor. Make yourself a valuable asset and people will look out for you when you apply for that next job. There is truth to the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” – though I wouldn’t downplay the “what you know” part.

Annika Terrana


Annika TerranaAnnika Terrana graduated from UW in 2009 with a B.A. in History and Certificates in Environmental Studies and African Studies.  She is now a Senior Program Officer for the World Wildlife Fund’s Forests initiative.