Park Break: A unique learning fellowship for graduate students thinking about a career working in parks, protected areas, or cultural sites
Learn what it's like to manage a national park in a national park
Park Break is an all-expenses-paid, park-based field seminar for graduate students who are thinking about a career in park management or park-related research and education. Park Break puts you in a national park unit for five days of field and classroom activities in close collaboration with park scientists and scholars, managers and administrators, and partner organizations.
Social science-focused Park Break to be held October 2015
(posted March 28, 2015) — Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve Social Science Park Break Program: The George Wright Society and National Park Service Social Science Program announce an exciting opportunity for graduate students. Applications are being accepted through May 15 for participation in a social science focused Park Break Program at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (GRSA).
The objective of this program is for students to understand a variety applied social science methods to collect information about visitor activities, attitudes, and travel patterns in GRSA and how these results integrate into planning across a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. The park unit is ramping up efforts to conduct a backcountry management plan in the coming years and has initiated collections of visitor use and social science information in the summer and fall of 2015. As part of this program, students will understand protected area management issues and questions that exist in relation to resource protection and visitor enjoyment and how social science information can benefit the generation of this planning effort to prescribe backcountry management direction into the future.
Dates of session: October 11-16, 2015
Find out what it's like to manage a national park
The primary goal of Park Break is to let promising graduate students experience the challenges of managing a national park unit. Through instruction from and dialogue with park resource managers, researchers, administrators, interpreters, and other professionals, Park Break participants will begin to understand the complexity of park research and management. This unique program is not offered anywhere else, as it focuses on scientific and intellectual inquiry at the graduate level specifically related to national parks. Although Park Break is open to graduate students of all backgrounds, an additional goal of the program is to provide minority students with experience in national parks in order to facilitate future careers in the field of parks and protected areas research and management.
Graduate students (Ph.D. or Master’s level) who are studying in fields related to parks, protected areas, and cultural sites. To be eligible, you must fall into one of the following categories:
- Have completed undergraduate degree and have been accepted into Master's program
- Current Master's degree candidate
- Have completed Master's degree and have been accepted into PhD program
- Current PhD degree candidate (including ABDs)
Students must be currently enrolled at an institute of higher education in either the USA, Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean and actively pursuing a degree. We regret that we cannot accept applications from students elsewhere. Minority students are especially encouraged to apply.
What happens during the week?
Each Park Break is designed around a specific topic. Not only will you explore that topic in depth, you'll see how it relates to the whole range of challenging issues facing park managers today.
A typical Park Break includes:
- Presentations by several top-level personnel at the park, such as the superintendent, assistant superintendent, division chiefs, resource managers, staff subject-matter experts (e.g., biologists, historians, etc.).
- Presentations by outside scientists/scholars who are currently working in the park.
- Presentations by local NGOs, elected officials, personnel from other parks, etc., who are working with the host park or on issues similar to those facing the host park.
- One or more field sessions in the park that illustrate the theme and issues being discussed.
- An excursion into the surrounding community to discuss relevant issues.
What's expected of me?
Park Break is not just about a week in a park — it's intended to create an ongoing community of motivated young professionals. Aside from following the curriculum and activities outlined above, Park Break students are expected to read a packet of background materials before their arrival. Once in-park, you will be assigned a real-life management problem to contemplate during the week, and asked to prepare, as a team, a presentation on proposed solutions that you will offer to the park's staff for discussion and feedback.
Many students who participate in the program document their experiences as part of the GWS's Park Break Perspectives series, an online collection of papers that captures some of the challenges and rewards of the Park Break program.
Park Break puts you on the path to success
While Park Break is not an employment or internship program, you will be involved with agency personnel who are actively looking to recruit the best young people in the park professions. Several Park Breakers have been hired by the National Park Service and one by the U.S. Forest Service. Other Park Break alums have embarked on Ph.D. programs. Park Break makes you and your skills visible!
In addition, Park Break students receive preference for travel scholarships to attend the following George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites — the USA's premier interdisciplinary professional meeting in the field.
Do I have to cover any costs?
Park Break is a fellowship, so all your direct costs — travel to and from the park, lodging and meals while in the park, and any required materials — are paid for. You are responsible for any non-essential, discretionary expenses you may incur. You also will need to supply common field gear that may be desirable for the session, such as backpacks, binoculars, cameras, foul-weather clothing, and so on.
Who are the organizers?
The 2015 Social Science Park Break is organized by the National Park Service Social Science Program in concert with the George Wright Society, the USA's leading professional association for researchers, resource managers, administrators, educators, and other professionals who work in or on behalf of parks, protected areas, and cultural sites. GWS puts on Park Break in cooperation with several partners. Current and past partners included the US Geological Survey , Colorado State University, Geological Society of America, Student Conservation Association, and Texas A&M University.
Sounds great! How do I apply?
The deadline to apply for the 2015 Social Science Park Break has passed. Thanks to everyone who applied. Notifications will go out in June.