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Meet our Spectacular Spring Interns!

Written by Danny Pirtle
    Monday, 26 March 2018
Meet our Spectacular Spring Interns!

In the visitor services department at the Urban Ecology Center, we like to say that we “wear a lot of hats.” In any given day, for example, I may end up making a pot of coffee, repairing a broken snowshoe, signing visitors up for memberships, training a new volunteer receptionist, or setting up a room for a neighborhood group, amongst many more tasks and projects.

This spring, two students from Cardinal Stritch University took the opportunity to experience the life of the Visitor Services Department first-hand as our first ever Visitor Services College Interns.

Anna Nowakowski and Devin Kirby have been working 12 to 20 hours a week at the Urban Ecology Center for academic credit and the opportunity to learn about the behind-the-scenes operations of our center. In the process, they have become invaluable members of the visitor services operations at Riverside Park!

Anna Nowakowski has previously worked in the Milwaukee County Parks and is currently majoring in communications with a minor in art at Cardinal Stritch. She wanted to do her internship here because she was looking for an opportunity to work in a job that was more customer service focused, but not so different from her previous experience in the county parks. She hopes to someday work in an environmental field. Says Anna, “I want to make a physical difference in the surrounding areas wherever I may live, but also encourage others to enjoy their space as well and know that it’s actually there.”

Anna, Visitor Service Intern

Anna, UEC's Visitor Services intern, lends her artistic talent to Riverside Park's chalkboard door

As part of her internship, Anna has relied on her artistic eye to “spruce things up” around the center, including drawing weekly updates on our chalkboard door, creating a clear check-out system for our AV equipment, and updating the interpretive signage around the building. She has also been trained as a receptionist, greeting visitors to the center on Tuesday evenings, answering phones, and directing questions, all while keeping the coffee and baked goods stocked.

Anna’s favorite part about her internship is being a part of the Urban Ecology Center community and feeling like she is an important member of the team (which she is!) When not greeting visitors at the reception desk, or in class learning Spanish, she can be found walking dogs throughout the neighborhoods of Milwaukee. “I walk many, many dogs but do not have one of my own yet, so borrowing is the only option for now.”

Devin Kirby is a business major with a certificate in energy and sustainability, and this is the third nonprofit organization he has worked for. He chose to pursue his internship at the Urban Ecology Center because it is closely aligned with his interests in the business side of working at a nonprofit, especially one that is focused on the environment and sustainability.

DevinKirby VSblog

UEC Visitor Services intern Devin greeting guests at our Riverside Park branch

While at the Urban Ecology Center, Devin can be found all over the building. He has done a lot of work with our equipment lending program, tuning up equipment displays, taking inventory, and helping members check out and return equipment. Like Anna, Devin works regularly at our reception desk, where he has found the opportunity to fine-tune his socialization skills, whether that is speaking to visitors in person or over the phone. Devin also enjoys making sure the lobby is a welcome, inviting place by keeping the coffee and baked goods stocked and always being up-to-date on the latest happenings in the center to share with our visitors.

Says Devin, “I like the environment of the center and how peaceful and inviting it is. The environment is very comfortable, not tense or nervous, even when you’re working!” Outside of the Urban Ecology Center, Devin enjoys reading and learning about all sorts of “random” topics, including emerging technology, astronomical events, and, in his words, “maybe even some conspiracy theories.”

If you come into the center at Riverside Park before the spring semester is up, you may see Anna drawing a frog on the chalkboard door, or Devin checking out board games to some kids. We are certainly lucky to have them here with this spring!

Danny Pirtle

Danny Pirtle

Danny grew up on the shore of Lake Michigan in Racine, Wisconsin. After spending time studying the natural world (and seeing a whole lot of birds) in Minnesota, California, Indiana, and Australia, he returned to his Midwestern roots as a Community Engagement Specialist at the Urban Ecology Center. His favorite bird is the Pigeon Guillemot and his favorite nature sound is the trill of the American Toad. When away from Riverside Park, he can be found walking with his puppy and his partner on the Oak Leaf Trail, or curled up with the latest Star Wars novel.

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