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English literature student develops climate change communications

October 18, 2013

Kimberly Townsend is currently working with the National Park Service to develop messaging that will be presented at the IUCN conference in Sydney, Australia, in 2014.

Kimberly Townsend knows first-hand that a degree in English develops skills that are useful for a wide variety of careers. While she is currently enrolled in her final semester at Colorado State University and is working on completing her thesis on Albanian literature, Townsend has already used the skills that she has cultivated as an English major to instruct teachers in Albania and help develop a climate change communication strategy for the National Park Service.

Peace Corps Master’s International Program

After taking coursework at CSU for three semesters, Townsend spent two years in Albania through the Peace Corps Master’s International Program. The PCMI facilitates Peace Corps opportunities that align with students' academic interests. PCMI students generally complete two or three semesters of coursework at CSU, spend two years abroad completing their Peace Corps service, and return to CSU for a final semester.

While in Albania, Townsend developed and led 6-week training courses to help Albanian high school and university teachers implement new strategies for teaching English.

“The PCMI is such a great way for students to get experience that they won’t get in the classroom," Townsendsaid. "My experience with the PCMI will change my life forever and it already has. I’m grateful that the opportunity exists for students and the public.” 

While in Albania, Townsend received an email from the CSU English department about upcoming internship opportunities. A full-time internship in climate change communication for the National Park Service caught her eye, and although she was skeptical about whether or not she was qualified for the position, Townsend decided to apply anyway. She was offered the position and started working for the National Park Service upon her return from Albania in May.

Climate change communications for 2014 IUCN conference

Townsend is currently working with the National Park Service to develop climate change messaging that will be presented at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conference in Sydney, Australia, in 2014.The IUCN conference is held every 10 years and brings together global leaders in parks and protected areas along with businesses, government, and influential individuals to discuss and develop worldwide conservation policies. The theme of the 2014 conference is Parks, People, Planet: Inspiring Solutions.

The National Park Service was selected by the IUCN to lead a forum on global climate change.

“This project is challenging and exciting at the same time," she said. "As a literature major it’s hard to learn all of the science terms, but my advantage is that I can help scientists communicate their messages because of my writing and communication skills.”

As an English major, Townsend is well-practiced in analyzing and writing about literature and she believes that this skill has given her the ability to analyze scientific language on climate change and translate it into language that the general public can understand.

The value of a degree in English

Townsend plans on pursuing a career in project planning and implementation for international nonprofit organizations once she is done with her National Park Service internship. She credits the experiences that were available to her through the CSU English department for helping her find her career path.

“An English degree allows you to have these kinds of experiences and prepares you for a wide variety of jobs," she said. "These experiences have allowed me to use the skills from my degree to make my own career path.”

Click here for more information about the Peace Corps Master’s International  Program at CSU.

Click here for more information about the International Union for Conservation of Nature Conference.

Contact: Lindsey Middendorf
Phone: 491-2374