U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) forest technician and student trainee Dexter Strother with the SRS Center for Forest Disturbance and Research, and forester Larry Cyprian with the SRS Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) unit represented the Forest Service at this year’s Minorities in Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) conference held in Birmingham, Alabama.
More than 900 participants attended the 29th Annual Career Fair and Training Conference designed to bring minority agriculture and natural resources students and professionals from academic institutions, government, and industry together.
Cyprian started his Forest Service career in the 1890 Firefighter Program, and worked as a forester on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest’s James River Ranger District before transferring to Research and Development last year. Strother is currently at the University of Georgia at Athens working on his dissertation on The Role of Black Carbon in a longleaf Pine Ecosystem. After graduating, he hopes to conduct fire research in the Southern Appalachians.
“I’ve been involved with MANRRS since I was an undergraduate at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but this was the first conference that I was able to attend,” said Cyprian. “The conference gave me an opportunity to see old college professors and an opportunity to speak with and answer questions from inspiring young students seeking a career with the Forest Service.”
“This was my first time attending the MANRRS conference,” said Strother. “I was very impressed by the diverse representation of the attendees.”
Cyprian and Strother attended workshops on grant and proposal writing, research, professional development, and technical skill enhancement that will prove beneficial as they continue their Forest Service careers.
Attending the conference gave Cyprian and Strother an opportunity to connect with some of their peers and professors from their undergraduate days, and an opportunity to meet and network with other Forest Service employees, university professors, farmers and land managers, and representatives from the National Park Service and state government agencies.
Both were able to get some hands-on experience that helped them develop a new appreciation for all of the work that goes on in preparing for a conference and behind the scenes. They assisted People Power with on-site registration and check-in, changed signs daily to make sure attendees knew where to find their workshops and presentations, helped prepare handouts and register individuals for tours, and decorated the banquet hall for the dinner and annual ball.
“Overall, I feel the MANRRS organization put on a great career fair and training conference, providing students with role models and networking opportunities,” said Cyprian.
“The networking opportunity alone is enough to give any aspiring professional or student the confidence to feel as if there is no limit to what they can accomplish,” said Strother. “I currently participate in a group chat with graduate students I met at the conference. We encourage and motivate one another and share information on our careers, job opportunities, and future goals.”
This year’s conference, themed “Embracing Today’s Challenges to Embark on Tomorrow’s Opportunities,” was presented in partnership with Alabama A&M, Auburn, and Tuskegee Universities. Both young men are looking forward to next year’s conference.