The University of Maine at Machias Alumni Spotlight shines on Tori Marshall of Sedona, Arizona, a 2008 UMM graduate with a degree in Recreation Management. Tori is an Education and Interpretation Coordinator at Coconino National Forest.
Tell us a little bit about what you are doing now:
After spending seven years working for the National Park Service, I settled in Arizona and I am now the Education and Interpretation Coordinator for the Arizona Natural History Association; a nonprofit organization that operates a number of bookstores in National Forests all over the state in order to provide funding and support for research, education programs, archeological preservation, conservation outreach, and many other special projects. I am based out of the Red Rock Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest in Sedona, Arizona, and I’m just starting my third year in this position.
As the Education Coordinator, I plan, prepare, and present interpretive programs, guided hikes, and campground programs about the flora, fauna, geology, cultural history, and ecology of the area. Sedona is a massive tourist destination, and there are always new people to talk to and plenty of things to talk about! I help the Forest Service to extend their interpretation reach, supplement their programming, and coordinate with locations and organizations they wouldn’t normally be able to access.
I’m also lucky enough to be working with a local wildlife rehabilitator to work with birds of prey, and am just finishing up the massive undertaking of writing and illustrating a new Junior Ranger activity book for the district as well.
In my free time, I play ukulele with the Jerome Ukulele Orchestra!
What is the most valuable thing you learned while at UMM?
UMM taught me to take advantage of any opportunity that may come along; to broaden my horizons, try something new, and to continually learn new things. I also learned how to take a leadership role and to push myself out of my comfort zone in order to be more in charge when necessary.
Do you have any advice for current students at UMM?
Do college to the max!! Don’t just do the bare minimum; take as many classes as you can handle in as many different subjects as you want! Be early to class and take time to really get to know your professors. Try something new and don’t just stick to the requirements! Take a music class, take a science class, and definitely take a recreation class. Don’t let the drama of small campus life distract you from why you’re really there; to learn and to do your best so that you are prepared for a career in your field. Join clubs, join the Student Senate, take a leadership role, be politically active and get to know how things are done. Take full advantage of your summers, too! Get a job or internship in your field; get real life, hands on experience beyond what you get in your classes. Have a resume ready to go and hit the ground running when it comes time to apply for jobs (and if you’re applying for federal jobs, learn how to do it before just jumping off the deep end!)
How did your time at UMM prepare you for what you are doing now?
UMM helped me to become a much more confident person, a strong leader, and an experienced educator and interpreter. I learned how to work well under pressure, to do more than I ever thought I could, and to step up and speak out. In my position now, I am constantly dealing with the public, and I have to be quick, and precise, and have an answer to any possible question they may ask. I learned to think fast, take advantage of any training or educational opportunity, and to learn about this place by hands on research and adventures. UMM taught me how to network, budget, work in groups, and to do the best with whatever you’re handed. The work I did in my various positions I had during my summer jobs and internships for Co-op credit also gained me direct experience that I still use today.
How has UMM made a positive impact on your life?
My time at UMM was absolutely invaluable. I learned a lot about life, and a lot about overcoming challenges, and a lot about what is important and what is ok to walk away from. I would not be in the position I am today if it weren’t for UMM. I found my passion for environmental education, and was urged to pursue it. UMM allowed me to grow up and be who I wanted to be, and to take advantage of what life has to offer. I made lifelong friends, learned lifelong skills, and will never be able to thank my professors enough for what they taught me.