Earth Team Volunteers in Wisconsin

Shaun Anderson - Madison State Office

In December 2010, I graduated with a degree in environmental engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Platteville. As a new graduate, I eagerly set out to find full-time employment in my field, but was continually reminded that the current economic slump is the worst job seekers have encountered in several decades. Month by month, I began to feel that I was falling farther and farther behind, but continued to look for an engineering position while working as a produce clerk in a local grocery store. In the summer of 2011, five months after graduating, I accepted a seasonal position as a water utility construction inspector. A few months later, my contract was fulfilled and, I was back at square one. I had a bit more experience to add to my résumé, but still no full-time job. After two more months of sending resumes and cover letters, I still had not received an offer for even an interview. It was late fall, not a good time for seasonal work in engineering, my prospects seemed grimed, and I was frustrated.

A friend who had experienced similar circumstances told me about the Earth Team. She had volunteered with the NRCS and had been able to gain practical experience in the field, while also really enjoying her time there. I looked into Earth Team and I began to realize that it was an excellent opportunity; I would be able to gain valuable experience in the engineering field while continuing to look for full-time employment. I contacted Barb Jensen, volunteer coordinator at the Wisconsin NRCS state office, and she directed me to Scott Mueller, the Wisconsin Assistant State Conservation Engineer. In November 2011, I began volunteering 16 hours a week with Scott, working on a few design spreadsheets for manure storage and plunge pools. I also worked on a new construction specification for aggregate base, and variety of other projects. Each project that I contributed to was challenging and fun, and they each allowed me put my degree and past experience to work for a wonderful cause.

In February 2012, I was offered a full-time position with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation as a Design and Construction Engineer. During the interview for this position, my interviewers were impressed by my ability to stay active in the engineering field despite the lack of opportunities, by volunteering through the NRCS Earth Team. Being a member of the NRCS Earth Team was a great experience, and I highly recommend the Earth Team to anyone who is in a similar employment situation or is looking to do a little something extra to protect the environment.