By Andie Conlon
Human relationships are always somewhat based in common interests, whether it be as fans of a sports team, Harry Potter nerds, or simply people who like watching Netflix together. The initial thing I noticed during my first month in Missoula is that the National Wildlife Federation has created and nurtured an intricate and beautiful network of people with not only common interests, but common goals. No matter what question I ask, there will always be someone who can give me a passionate and educated answer. Looking to incorporate tribal communities into our Eco-Schools program? Set up a meeting with Rosalyn LaPier. Want to adopt a traffic circle and certify it as a wildlife habitat? Go talk to Jane Kelly. Got a question about beavers? Sarah Bates is your gal. The list goes on. This network of community partners in Missoula seems endless and timeless.
I had the especially unique opportunity of seeing this network at play during the North American Association for Environmental Education conference in Spokane, WA. Not only did I meet NWF affiliates do amazing work throughout the country, but I also met countless individuals from other organizations that share our same goals and ideologies. As a recent college graduate, the term “networking” has a certain negative connotation that makes my stomach churn. To me, it has always meant business suits and business cards…plus lots and lots of schmoozing. At NAAEE, however, I realized that networking is so much more than that – it’s building a network of incredible people doing incredible work for our world. Okay, yes, there were still business cards, but it was only so we could follow up with one another about a potential partnership. My short time with the National Wildlife Federation has shown me how truly valuable it is to create a network of partners in your local community. I have been here a little over a month, sent out countless emails,met with multiple community members, and still have only scratched the surface.I cannot wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for me.