Making meaningful connections in the sustainability community

Gillian Chirillo’s involvement in clubs and networking opportunities has strengthened her connections to the sustainability professionals she wants to work with.

Gillian Chirillo poses for a photo at Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan.
Gillian Chirillo

During her time at MSU, meaningful relationships and networks have defined Gillian Chirillo’s college experience and career path. Whether through student organizations, jobs, or connections with professors, building these connections has contributed to her success.

Gillian participated in the Michigan Cares for Tourism event with the MSU Sustainable Parks and Recreation Club (SPARC), where she learned about invasive species, helped build a playground in Leelanau State Park, and spoke to professionals in the sustainable tourism field.

After participating in this event, she said, “It opened so many doors for me as a sustainability student and made me super happy to be a part of such an amazing community.”

This past summer, Gillian interned with the United States Forest Service in the Flathead National Forest. She hopes to continue working in environmental stewardship after college.

Read on to learn Gillian’s advice about building meaningful connections as a Sustainable Parks, Recreation, & Tourism & Forestry student.

Hometown:

Northville, MI

Majors:

Sustainable Parks, Recreation and Tourism & Forestry

Minor:

Environmental Studies and Sustainability

Expected graduation date:

Spring 2021

Why did you choose Sustainable Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SPRT) & Forestry?

I didn’t have many specific goals when I came to college, except that I wanted a career involving the environment, where I could do something that would improve community welfare in some way, and where I would constantly be challenged and on my feet. I started school in the RISE program with a minor in Environmental Studies and Sustainability. This opened the door to the world of sustainability for me after I was introduced to the amazing programs, clubs, and faculty within the department. I immediately fell in love with the idea of being a steward for the environment for the rest of my life and decided to change my major to SPRT as well as Forestry.

What has been one of your best experiences within your major so far?

One of my best experiences in school so far, specifically through the Sustainable Parks, Recreation and Tourism major, was when the SPARC Club (the official club for SPRT) participated in a yearly event called Michigan Cares for Tourism that took place in the Leelanau Peninsula. This event encapsulated all of the most wonderful aspects of this major and reminded me that there are so many people who care about our shared natural resources and value the benefits of community engagement. During this weekend, a group of MSU students joined hundreds of volunteers from all over to explore tourism in Michigan. We were able to work with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to learn about invasive species, build a playground in Leelanau State Park, refurbish the facilities, speak to professionals throughout the field, and explore the entire Leelanau Peninsula! I hope the tradition of taking a group of students to this event continues. It opened so many doors for me as a sustainability student and made me super happy to be a part of such an amazing community. 

What are your future plans?

I have very loose plans for the years following graduation, but I am looking forward spending some time in the great outdoors making our natural resources even more incredible. This past summer I was able to work alongside for the United States Forest Service in the Flathead National Forest, Montana. I was able to experience working for a government agency, which I really took a liking to, and also found a passion for field work. I hope to continue working for the Forest Service in the recreation sector after college, but I am also looking into doing a year with AmeriCorps. Generally, I hope to continue working out in the field for a while. I eventually hope to land a job in natural resource or recreation management.

Any thoughts or advice for current students?

The only advice I would really want to stress is to do everything that you could ever possibly have an interest in during your time here, especially as a freshman or sophomore. If you think one of your professors is really cool and has a neat research project going on, ask them about it. If you are interested in a club but don’t think you will be good at it, try it anyway, or even just go to one meeting.

There are so many opportunities at MSU, and if you try anything you are even slightly interested in doing, you are sure to find something that inspires you. Being a sustainability major, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the number of incredible things that can be done after graduation. That also means there is an opportunity to find something super special and unique to you, and MSU is a great place to figure that out.

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