The U.S. Department of the Interior met with SUU faculty and staff in Washington, D.C. today, in recognition of the University's Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative (IIC). The IIC received the Secretary’s Partners in Conservation Award from the Department of Interior for the outstanding conservation results achieved through collaboration and partnering.
Briget Eastep, director of the Outdoor Engagement Center, and Seth Ohms, IIC internship coordinator, along with Carolyn Shelton, assistant monument manager for the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Paul Roelandt, superintendent for Cedar Breaks National Monument, and Rosie Pepito, superintendent for Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument, accepted the award on behalf of all IIC partners.
“The Department of the Interior is proud to recognize the accomplishments of those who are innovating and collaborating in ways that address today’s complex conservation and stewardship challenges,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said at the awards ceremony, according to the Interior's press release. “These partnerships represent the gold standard for how Interior is doing business across the nation to power our future, strengthen tribal nations, conserve and enhance America’s great outdoors and engage the next generation.”
Administered by Southern Utah University’s Outdoor Engagement Center, the IIC coordinates work and project-based internship and service learning projects to serve southern Utah, northern Arizona and eastern Nevada by matching state and federal land and cultural management agencies in need of interns and volunteer assistance with University students and educators seeking meaningful land management and education opportunities.
A great resource to the University's burgeoning undergraduate program in Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism (ORPT), the IIC has become the premier internship program on campus, providing trained and motivated apprentices for a broad range of public-lands agencies.
Situated in a field that is traditionally hard to break into without relevant experience by way of hours logged, the IIC gives SUU's students an obvious edge in the bid for coveted public lands employment opportunities. More broadly, the IIC promotes professionalism in stewardship and creates opportunities for all of SUU's students to learn about, contribute to, and benefit from land and cultural resource conservation.
Such a partnership is rare to find on any other university campus, according to Anne Smith, one of the original founders of IIC and SUU Outdoor Education Series coordinator.
“These students aren’t just playing outside for a few months, they are able to get their feet wet within a legitimate field of study and create contacts that directly connect them with public land representatives.”
Since 2007, SUU's IIC has placed over 500 interns and crew members in the field with its partnering organizations, which include: Bureau of Land Management’s Color Country District, Arizona Strip District and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument; National Park Service’s Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Pipe Spring National Monument, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument and Great Basin National Park; U.S. Forest Service’s Dixie National Forest and Kaibab National Forest; Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah; and Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians; Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Southern Paiute Agency; Natural Resources Conservation Services’ Cedar City Office; Utah Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Parks and Recreation – Southwest Region, and Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands – Southwest Region.
“SUU is uniquely situated amongst some of the world’s most beautiful scenery," said Smith, explaining the unique reasons why the IIC at SUU is so effective and, now, recognized at the national level.
“This is quite an honor for the IIC to receive this recognition from the Department of Interior," said SUU partner Jeff Bradybaugh, superintendent of the Bryce Canyon National Park, "This is great news for all the partners in the IIC and reflects the hard work and effort that everyone has put forth to make this IIC partnership so successful.”
Among the hundreds of students that have taken part in the IIC since its founding six years ago, more and more are coming from all across the University, not just within the assumed outdoor recreation department. Accounting majors are helping with finances, graphic design students are creating and soon-to-be engineers are crafting buildings, all for state and federal land and resource agencies.
Partners in Conservation Awards were granted to 20 public-private partnerships that have achieved exemplary conservation results through cooperation and community engagement. Together, the 20 award-winning partnerships include recipients representing more than 260 organizations and individuals from across the United States and the world.