In her first two weeks as the SNRE recruiter, Jori Welchans met with the school’s students and faculty and representatives from Admissions, Student Rural Services, Financial Aid and Residence Life. She also toured the Student Recreation Center and participated in Major Mania, the Inside Out recruiting event and another college fair attended by Interior high school students.
“I’ve been busy,” she said.
Welchans wants to learn as much as possible about the School of Natural Resources and Extension and the University of Alaska Fairbanks so she can answer questions from prospective students and tell them about the natural resources management degree.
She will be based out of Kerttula Hall at the Matanuska Experiment Farm. Welchans will focus her recruiting efforts in Anchorage and the Mat-Su areas at first. She expects to attend college fairs and meet with high school students, maybe in biology and chemistry classes. Frequently, those are the kind of students that might be interested in natural resources management but probably don’t know about the interdisciplinary degree, she said. “It kind of combines all sciences and they really don’t think that way.”
Interestingly, she discovered that all the NRM students she talked to in Fairbanks transferred to the major after declaring another major at UAF. They did not know about the NRM degree when they started college.
Welchans hopes to make the degree more visible and to recruit more students. She believes her background will be an asset, since several of jobs she has had are the kind of jobs individuals with a natural resources management degree might get. Those include a nine-year stint as a seasonal park ranger at Denali National Park. She did interpretive programs for visitors and later trained and supervised other interpreters. She also worked as a science technician at the park, a sports and recreation coordinator for the City of Seward and in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she received undergraduate degrees in anthropology and zoology from the University of Michigan. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation management and a master’s in recreation, sports and tourism from the University of Illinois. She has also worked as a substitute high school teacher and tutor for several Alaska school districts.
The recruiting job also seemed like a good fit because of her interest in the outdoors, conservation and natural resources, she said. “I am passionate about natural resources and managing them in a sustainable manner.”
Her hobbies include hiking and playing hockey, which she learned as a child growing up in a Detroit suburb. She looks forward to making more connections with the university and trying to boost the school’s undergraduate and graduate numbers.
SNRE Professor Dave Valentine, who also serves as the SNRE director of academic programs, said he and other members of the hiring committee were impressed with Welchans and her positive attitude. “She really has a lot of enthusiasm for natural resources and our program,” he said. “We think we’ve got a great program. We’ve just got to get ourselves better known.”