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Dinner with Strangers goes virtual during meeting with NCTC director

ISSUED: 20 November 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Like many programs at Shepherd University, Dinner with Strangers has had to adapt because of COVID-19 restrictions. The first virtual Dinner with Strangers recently took place via Zoom and morphed into a Conversation with Strangers between Steve Chase, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Conservation Training Center, and four students from the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

The students who participated were secondary education majors Brandon Dolly, Inwood, and Maryanna Milleson, Springfield, and environmental studies majors Kevin McClanathan, Hagerstown, Maryland, and Abigail Werking, Ellicott City, Maryland.

Chase said he was thrilled to participate in a conversation with the four students.

“We believe it is critical to engage with the next generation of conservation professionals,” Chase said. “These young people represent the future of conservation and they will ensure that the conservation legacy left by so many continues to thrive in new ways. Big kudos to Shepherd University for establishing this program. I look forward to engaging with students in future sessions of Dinners with Strangers.”

Chase, who found the students enthusiastic and focused on pursuing their careers, told them his story and gave them tips on how to approach getting a career with the federal government. He also offered follow up dialogue as they leave school and get into the job market. Milleson and Werking describe the opportunity as incredibly interesting, insightful, and rewarding.

“I am majoring in secondary education with a concentration in biology, and Mr. Chase provided a sense of comfort to me when he explained that there are still many paths that I could take careerwise,” Milleson said. “I really appreciated this because I enjoy the thought of teaching high school someday, but I am intimidated by the thought of being nailed down to one career for the rest of my life. This program was very interesting, and it seems like a wonderful opportunity for Shepherd students to make connections with community members—connections which could impact our careers and the rest of our lives.”

“Steve Chase went into great detail regarding his background and career progression,” Werking said. “It was insightful hearing about the small jobs that built on one another that ultimately led to his position as the director of NCTC. Afterwards, I felt better knowing that it isn’t important right now to know where I’m going to end up in the long run; it’s just a good idea to take positions that fill your interests and will help you progress.”

“I was excited to be selected to represent Shepherd University during this event and left with the impression that Director Chase was interested in our success,” McClanathan said. “I hope that these kinds of events continue into the future. Soft skills like face-to-face communication are key skills that every student would benefit from practicing more often, and there is no better place to do that than having in-person conversations with like-minded individuals of different demographics. You will learn a lot and you may even make a friend.”

Dolly had not heard of the NCTC prior to the meeting, but now has a new perspective on what he can do after graduation.

“The main thing that I gained from the meeting was the possibility of working within the NCTC as an educator,” Dolly said. “I am currently enrolled at Shepherd as a secondary education major with a concentration in biology, and Steve mentioned that biology teachers could teach at the NCTC. I’ve wanted to be a teacher my entire life, and it is nice to know that there are more teaching environments out there besides high school.”

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