Part 3 in our series of interviews with the new generation of wilderness champions
Featured, Voices of NexGen
Below is the third in our 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 offshoot of MWA geared towards college students. A UMWA alumnus herself, Linville interviews Garret Koepke.
Garrett started out as an intern with Montana Wilderness Association in college. Recognizing the importance of student groups for meeting likeminded people, he became a member of the University of Montana’s MWA group. While a student at the University of Montana, he coordinated the Outdoor Explorers Mentoring Program for MWA.
AL: Did you enjoy your time with UMWA? What did you like about the group the most?
GK: My UMWA experience was awesome. I wasn't able to go to all the meetings, and I didn't go on many of the trips, but I enjoyed the community on Monday nights and made a few friends while I was at it. It's always good to know that you're not the only one your age who passionate about something.
My favorite thing about UMWA was the people. There were some quirky people there and I loved that! "Wildfolk" are an awesome breed. The experience definitely made me fonder of wilderness organizations and being involved with the wilderness community in general.
AL: Did UMWA inspire you toward your current job? If so, how?
GK: Currently, I’m working as a trip leader for YMCA Camp Seymour in Gig Harbor, Washington. UMWA was part of my internship with MWA, which I would say played a stronger part in inspiring me to my current job. MWA gave me an opportunity to get experience creating relationships in my community and working with kids in the outdoors. It helped me discover what I love to do and gain experience doing it.
AL: What would you say to other students to encourage them to join UMWA?
GK: I would say that the thing you need most in college is a strong community around you. It's really tough to make it through these years of your life without friendship and creating new experiences that you will remember. It's also about discovering what you love to do. UMWA is a very active group and will give those who join great opportunities for all of these things.
AL: How do you see yourself being involved in conservation in the future?
GK: In the future, I could work for outdoor programs, particularly with youth and young adults. I want to lead people into new experiences, help them fall in love with this world, and grow as a result. Participating in conservation and pro-outdoor organizations will be a major part of making this happen in my life.
AL: What suggestions do you have for organizations that would like to recruit younger people?
GK: Organizations could recruit young people by giving them opportunities to speak and be heard, take on responsibility for their natural resources, and give them chances to do the things they love. There are challenges for sure, but people will choose to volunteer if they think it's the best use of their time and they love it.
AL: How do you see your connection with this community developing in the future?
GK: I plan to stay in contact with the people I connected with in college through my internship and look for opportunities to be involved with them in the future.
AL: Last words?
GK: MWA is a great organization that I hope to be involved with for a long time!