Introducing the 2013 Field Crew bloggers

Sean Fleming

Crew: Central Roving

Hometown: Alexandria, Minnesota

College: St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota

Person or experience that made me into who I am today: My family owns hunting land near Tower, Minnesota. Several times a year we traveled to that boggy land to hunt or camp and take in the wilderness without running water or electricity. That northern land became my second home and I spent many hours journeying through the forests and along the rivers looking for moose and bear. I decided to live on that land for the summer before my senior year of high school. My brother, my best friend and I drove up and spent weeks cooking on a single burner propane stove, reading under the balsams and swimming in the local creeks all while disconnected from electricity. That experience came to define much of my personality not merely because of the spiritual impacts of the wilderness, but because it was one of the first times in my life that I had risked living an idea without the safety nets of parents or school.

My story: Last year I was searching for adventurous jobs when my friend pointed me to the Conservation Corps. I applied and was hired as a crew leader in Fergus Falls where I worked primarily on trail construction and prairie restoration. I learned about the Water Trails crew and wanted to work on that this year. After being deployed to New Jersey, I re-interviewed and was hired. At the moment I have few ideas about next year. Overseas travel has been calling for awhile. Whatever I end up doing, I hope to continue my nomadic lifestyle for the next few years. 


Whitney Wais

Crew: Youth Outdoors 3 South Minneapolis, aka “The River Crew”

Hometown: Arroyo Grande, California

College: University of California, Davis

Person or experience that made me into who I am today: My parents had a huge influence over my interests, values and outlook on the world. They always encouraged me and my three siblings to live simply and do good. For as long as I can remember, my parents always took us four kids tent camping in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California. As a kid, I savored these long days exploring in the woods, catching trout with my homemade fishing pole and laughing with my family over the campfire. These trips were not only formative for me in respecting and understanding the value in the outdoors, but they also laid the foundation for my current work at the Corps. I am fulfilled knowing that I am able to still live simply and do good work.

My story: The most common question I get asked especially in the winter months is “why in the world did you move here from California?” And although of course I know where these bundled Minnesotans are coming from, it’s a question I have a difficult time answering. Mostly because I love it here and not only in the summer. I get to be near friends, in a city alive with good food, art, music and biking.

I moved here last June after I finally decided to risk the great big move without a car. I spent my gap year between graduation trying out as many new things as I could. I moved to Oakland, California and took a Research and Public Policy Microfinance Fellowship with Women’s Initiative for Self Employment and attended landscape horticulture classes at a nearby community college.

I also guided backpacking and camping trips in Yosemite through Outdoor Adventures at UC Davis. Through these experiences I realized I enjoyed learning new skills with my hands, nerding out over plants and working with others. This is what has brought me to working with the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa and specifically the Youth Outdoors program. After my AmeriCorps year is up, I would really love to work on a farm for a while to learn more farming skills and later get my masters in urban planning. But, only time will tell where this year takes me!


Tiffany Howard

Crew: Rochester Pines

Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri

College: William Jewell College, Missouri

Person or experience that made me into who I am today: My mother and father made me the person I am today. My mom was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2006 and watching the strength of her and my father throught it all showed me what the human spirit can endure. I carry that experience and determination with me in everything I do.

My story:  I graduated from William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri in 2012 with degrees in psychology and biology. After looking at many internships, I found the Conservation Corps website, read the description and knew this was for me! After my stint with Conservation Corps, I hope to get a job with the Department of Interior as a wildlife biologist or game warden.


Rachel Sicheneder

Crew: Camden

Hometown: Minnetonka, Minnesota

College: Whitman College, Washington

Person or experience that made me into who I am today: 
After high school I travelled quite a bit; to Washington for college, Costa Rica for a year to work, North Carolina for marine science work and finally to Africa to work for a conservation organization. Interacting with other cultures and all kinds of wonderful people gave me faith in myself and shaped the person I am today.

My story: Last year I was a crew member on the Kilen Woods Crew. I loved working in Minnesota for a change and the connections I made through the Corps made the year well spent. This year I am returning as a crew leader out of Camden State Park. Along with serving another ten months, my hope this year is to be able to find out more about the years my late grandfather spent serving in the Corps. I want my year of conservation to include not only the natural world we work in but the spoken word of oral history as well. My grandfather spoke about the Corps years after his service term ended. I am sure that whatever I do in the future I will be able to look back on this upcoming year with just as much fulfillment and enthusiasm.


Nicholas Cox

Crew: St. Paul Roving Crew

Hometown: Osceola, Wisconsin

College: University of Minnesota (Duluth, then Twin Cities)

Person or experience that made me into who I am today: After thinking about this question for a while, I’m going to take the easy route and say that I can’t point to any small number of specific people or experiences. Even the shortest interactions with strangers or a single paragraph from a book I never finished had profound effects on who I am and the way I choose to live day to day. Countless tiny happenings, my diverse and dynamic group of adventure seeking friends, and my supportive family constantly provide new experiences and insights that influence every step that I take. 

My story:  I’ve recently set out on a quest to investigate my own and society’s relationship with the earth and nature. The first subject this led me to was food; believe it or not, all of our food comes from the earth and not from supermarkets or chocolate factories. For two seasons I worked on organic vegetable farms: 2011 at a relatively large CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm in Wisconsin, and 2012 managing the harvesting, processing, and marketing of vegetables at the U of M Student Organic Farm. I’ve concluded that the way in which we extract sustenance from the earth is perhaps the most important interaction we have with nature, and there is much work to be done in order to repair and sustain a healthy interaction.

For 2013 I’m taking a hiatus from agricultural work as a field crew member on the St. Paul crew. I was introduced to the Corps by some friends in the Individual Placement program, and decided to apply to work on a field crew in order to avoid any resemblance of an office job for as long as possible. The work we will be doing and the areas in which we will be working represent some of the most visible opportunities that people have to interact with and develop a relationship with nature. I’m expecting to learn a great deal about natural resource management, strengthen my own relationship with nature, and to leave an impact that will enable others to do the same.

After the term, I suspect there will be plenty of opportunities to continue to explore natural resource management, and I plan to pursue such paths.  In the long run, however, I hope to return to agriculture and the good food movement with hopes of running my own vegetable farm and self-sustaining homestead. 


Dita Amtey

Crew: Youth Outdoors 4

Hometown: Anaheim, CA

College: UC Berkeley

Person or experience that made me into who you are today: My MOM!

 My story: This time last year I was working as a Naturalist/ Outdoor Educator with the YMCA of Greater Seattle on Orcas Island, WA. The job taught me a lot about education, the environment, and myself. Though life on the Island was care free and I was surrounded by an impressive community of friends and educators, by the year’s end I knew it was time for me to once again challenge myself and try something new. That’s when I met the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa. The opportunity to join Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa was particularly appealing to me because it gave me the chance to practice environmental education, get field experience working on various restoration projects around Minneapolis and try my luck living in The Great White North! As of right now, plans for my post-Corps life are nothing more than thoughts or ideas I have planted and wait to see grow. Perhaps I’ll find myself transplanted in Tennessee, back home in California, or… rooted right here in the Twin Cities.

Jennifer Kaiser

Crew: Youth Outdoors 5

Hometown: Saint Paul, MN

College: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

Person or experience that made me into who you are today: During the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, June-July 2006, I participated in Amigos de las Americas, a volunteer exchange program that placed me with a host family in rural Panama. At the time, I had never left the Midwest, never boarded a plane and could only speak basic Spanish. I was thrilled to experience something new, yet quickly disillusioned by the disparities I observed in economics, language, food, etc. Over my two-month stay, I grew to recognize that most of our differences are superficial, and that, no matter our background, people have more in common than not. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated by travel, language and culture.

My story: I remember crying on more than one occasion when my teachers would make me go outside for recess during grade school. Fortunately, things have shifted dramatically since those childhood days, and now I seek one outdoor adventure after another. After completing my undergraduate degree last year I spent six months in Turkey, first on the Critical Language Scholarship and then working odd jobs. I decided that joining the Conservation Corps would be an excellent opportunity to gain practical leadership and teamwork experience before continuing my education. I plan to apply for graduate school in the next few years, and in the meantime, hope to work in more non-conventional settings and travel to as many corners of the world as possible!