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Oct 23 2015

Wilderness U

Part 1 in a series of interviews with University of Montana Wilderness Association alumni and current members

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Below is the first in a series of interviews that writer and MWA state council member Allison Linville conducted with students and alumni of the University of Montana who are or have been members of the University of Montana Wilderness Association (UMWA), an offshot of MWA geared towards college students. A UMWA alumnus herself, Linville first interviews Christy Curd, who joined UMWA in the spring of 2011 after transferring to the University of Montana.

A: Hi Christy! To start off, can you tell us about why you joined UMWA?

C: My main motivation was to make friends, because I was a new transfer student. I had just finished a crewmember season with the Montana Conservation Corps prior to coming to UM, so I was pretty jazzed about the wilderness and MCC set me off on my current life path of being a semi-professional outdoor person. Also, when I joined, I was applying for the Wilderness & Civilization program for the next year, so joining seemed like something I should do.

A: Tell us more about your involvement with UMWA.

C: UMWA was great! I made lots of friends, so it was a success on that front. I went on several trips with the group, including backpacking, cabin visits, etc. In 2012, I was the secretary, and over the course of the two years I wrote letters to the editor and made presentations on behalf of UMWA to the Associated Students of the University of Montana [student governing body].

My favorite part of UMWA was the community, which is really great. Our meetings revolved around food. Someone would volunteer to cook a big meal for the group, and I credit the food with creating a really mellow atmosphere that made it easy to make friends. Also, it encouraged lingering after meetings to clean up and eat more and chat with folks. It was also generally a welcoming bunch – such being kind of the status quo amongst outdoorsy folks – and that was probably why the group almost tripled in size by the time I graduated.

A: That’s amazing! Shifting our focus to your post-college life, how did your work with UMWA inspire you toward your current job?

C: [MWA Western Montana Field Director and former NextGen coordinator] Zack Porter’s involvement with UMWA meant that a) I was exposed to his tremendous enthusiasm for wilderness, b) I was exposed to the idea that it’s possible to get a job in the wilderness advocacy field, and c) I was also exposed to lots of organizations and people who are pretty significant in the wilderness world. I can’t credit UMWA with making me want to do ‘wilderness-y’ work—that started with MCC. But the connections I made and all the knowledge and experiences I gained from my involvement have definitely been helpful.

A: What do you think are the main selling points of UMWA and how would you convince an incoming student to join the organization?

C: It’s not hard to entice people with free trips, free dinner at meetings, and camaraderie, but even without those perks, it’s worth joining just to meet like-minded people and have cool experiences!

A: Where do you see yourself in the future as far as potential jobs and involvement in conservation?

C: I want to contribute to a more sustainable society by getting people to care about places. How I’m going to go about that is about as clear to me as the Clark Fork in May, which is to say, not at all. I’d most like to work in the nonprofit field, and I’m a big believer in providing balanced information on conservation issues rather than hardline advocacy. I also want to be part of a collaborative organization that gets things done.

A: My last question for you is how do you continue to benefit from your experience with UMWA?

C: My UMWA trip experiences follow me on all of my wilderness forays, whether for work or play. Because of my involvement, I have some sense of responsibility to stay informed about Montana’s wilderness issues, and I also hope that the connections I made as a member will continue to serve me well in my search for future employment.