March GPSI Student Spotlight
The Graduate Public Service Intern (GPSI) Program has over 200 interns at any given time throughout the year. While we cannot showcase all of the incredible work our students do on a daily basis, we have decided to highlight one intern or supervisor each month. March’s feature is Marissa Jones, a second year intern working at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).
Marissa received her Bachelor’s degree from UIS and is now getting her Master’s degree in Environmental Science with a special emphasis in Environmental Planning and Management. Additionally, she is earning her Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Certificate through her graduate program in UIS’ College of Public Affairs and Administration. Marissa was nominated by her supervisor Tara Kieninger, IDNR’s Natural Heritage Database Program Manager.
In her GPSI at IDNR, Marissa works to map and enter data that relate to endangered and threatened species as well as natural areas. The agency then uses that data for species listing decisions, land acquisitions, environmental review, land stewardship, etc. Tara notes Marissa’s work is “crucial for keeping databases current and reducing the data backlog.” Additionally, Marissa is in charge of initially reviewing projects submitted for endangered species Incidental Take Authorization (ITA) permits which allows the ITA program manager to handle more project and permit requests and therefore work to minimize disturbing rare species habitats. Finally, Marissa is getting hands-on experience assisting field biologists with habitat stewardship, prescribed burning, and rare species surveys.
UIS’ motto has long-been Leadership Lived. GPSI has adopted this motto as well and attempts to reinforce the importance of leadership among our participants. In addition to leadership skills Tara notes, “Marissa has a natural curiosity and inquisitiveness about the natural resources field. She has all the intangible skills that make her a great employee.” This natural curiosity is what makes Marissa vital to IDNR, Tara mentions, “Because of her inquisitiveness and desire to get involved, she does not just sit back and wait for assignments. She positively challenges me by offering additional suggestions for ways in which she can contribute to our Division.” GPSI encourages students not only to get the most out of their internship placements, but to explore their agencies further and dive deep into other departments and areas that may be of interest. Tara points out, “During my 23-year career, I have rarely come across an intern that is a sure bet to not only succeed, but to excel.”
The GPSI Office has witnessed Marissa’s involvement on campus as well by her participation in Webinars hosted by UIS as their student representative and her assistance in GPSI program initiatives to reach more students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Marissa will be earning her degree this May 2021 and has already secured a full-time job after graduation at Lincoln Memorial Garden as the Apprentice Gardener, then will be taking over as the Head Gardener. We want to congratulate Marissa on an outstanding internship performance and wish her all the success her future has to offer.
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Myra Kaufman is the Assistant Director of the Graduate Public Service Intern program at UIS. Prior to her start at UIS and GPSI in July 2017, Myra earned her Bachelor’s degree in Applied Communication Studies- Interpersonal Communication and her Master’s degree in College Student Personnel Administration from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.