Q and A with Lisa Norby: 2019 Champion of the Year
Lisa Norby is retiring from a career with the National Park Service. Lisa is a 21CSC Champion of the Year for 2019. This Award recognizes individuals from agencies and organizations that partner with 21CSC programs to help engage the next generation of conservation and community leaders in service, education and training.
The 2019 Champions of the Year will be recognized at the annual Partnership for the 21CSC Meeting, happening February 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. This event is part of The Corps Network National Conference.
Tell us about your current role.
I am currently scheduled to retire from the National Park Service and will do so when the partial federal government shutdown ends. Until the end of 2018 I was the program manager for two service-wide National Park Service (NPS) internship programs – Geoscientists-in-the-Parks (GIP) and Mosaics in Science. Both programs place college students and recent graduates in science internships with the NPS. The GIP Program places approximately 200 interns in parks each year and the Mosaics in Science Diversity Internship Program places 24 minority students and recent graduates in national parks to complete critical natural resource science projects for the agency. In addition to my duties running youth programs, I also was the Energy and Minerals Brach Chief for the National Park Service’s Geologic Resources Division.
Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in conservation/land and water management?
I studied geology in college and earned bachelors and master’s degrees in 1978 and 1980. I always wanted to be an environmental geologist. After a deviation in this career goal during my first career with Mobil Oil, I returned to graduate school to study environmental policy and management and then took a student trainee job with the National Park Service. This position was converted to a permanent position when I completed my second master’s degree in 1996. My positions with the NPS have included environmental planning, oversight of oil and gas development in parks, supervision of staff managing energy and mineral development in parks, and then finally youth program development and management.
Tell us about how you have engaged with Service and Conservation Corps.
I have always been interested in youth programs and first started as a camp counselor in the Bahamas when I was in high school. During college I participated as a crew leader and then science education coordinator for the Youth Conservation Corps in NM and FL. In 2007 I was given the opportunity to manage and grow the NPS Geoscientists-in-the-Parks Program, in 2010 developed the George Melendez Climate Change Internship and Fellowship Programs, and in 2013 was fortunate to partner with the NPS Youth Programs Division to create and manage the Mosaics in Science Diversity Internship Program. I have worked with 4 organizations over the past 13 years to administer youth programs on behalf of the NPS: Conservation Legacy – Stewards Individual Placement Program, The Geological Society of America, Greening Youth Foundation, and Environment for the Americas.
What advice would you offer to other employees from land/water management agencies and nonprofits that are interested in partnering with 21CSC programs (What to expect, etc.)?
- Seek out partner(s) that have the skills that you need to create and administer your program,
- learn from others that have run similar programs – reach out to learn what has worked well and not so well for them,
- make sure staff working in the project/program have the passion and commitment to do this type of work,
- engage with partners regularly so that any problems that arise can be resolved,
- do annual program reviews and make needed adjustments, and
- expect the unexpected and build that in to program and schedule – e.g., needed federal approvals for agreements, program and funding delays, and unresponsive, late, or incomplete input from recipients and agencies.
What are the most beneficial aspects of partnering with a 21CSC Program?
- Working with incredibly talented and dedicated organizations and staff that are committed to delivering high quality projects/programs,
- Cost effective work,
- Incredible and innovative ideas, and
- 21CSC resources available to assist with the administration of programs.
What advice would you offer to young people in 21CSC programs who are interested in careers in conservation and land/water management?
- Take advantage of the resources that your project / program / organization / agency offers – network and learn about careers with the organization or agency you are working with,
- learn new marketable skills – seek out and take advantage of training offered during position, shadow more experienced employees, volunteer, learn cutting edge technologies, get the degrees (college and above if needed to attain your career goals),
- offer to help doing things that may lead to a new and unexpected opportunity or position,
- stay positive even though not all aspects of the project will be stimulating,
- be flexible in your early career choices because once you are in the government it is relatively easy to move between positions, and
- never burn bridges because the conservation community is tight knit and you may work for someone you previously knew in another position!