Unity College Conservation Law students fill all six Deputy Game Warden positions this summer

Decked out in their new forest-green uniforms, six Unity College students majoring in Conservation Law Enforcement lined up in front of a whiteboard, standing underneath the words “To succeed, you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality.” For these students, that passion has indeed become a reality, as they were chosen in May to fill all six of the 2018 Maine Deputy Game Warden positions for the summer.

“This is such an honor,” said Keegan Nelligan, one of the Unity College students. Entering into his senior year this fall, it has been a lifelong dream of Keegan’s to become a Maine Game Warden, and getting this position brings him one more step closer to making that a reality. “My experience at Unity College has definitely helped prepare me for this moment, and I can’t wait to get started on this journey for the summer, and for whatever comes after that.”  

“In my time here, I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” said Dr. Melik Peter Khoury, President of Unity College. “I’m very proud of all six of these students, and I know the hard work and dedication they’ve put forth to achieve this. It also speaks volumes about our Conservation Law program, which helps prepare our students for opportunities like this. Many of our students are Red Sox fans, so I would say these students and their faculty are batting a thousand this summer.”

Along with Keegan, Unity College students Marc D’Elia, Nicholas Johnson, Emily Tripp, Morgan Jeane, and Will Reinsborough, were selected for the summer positions. It’s a feather in the cap for a program that has seen an abundance of success throughout the year, and continues to grow, introducing an online Conservation Law Enforcement graduate program in the fall.

“Our Conservation Law program is truly primed for growth, and you can point to the success stories like this and other remarkable outcomes as proof of that,” added Khoury.

Austin Harding, Park Ranger (Protection), returned for his second season at Acadia National Park in 2018, leading into his senior year at Unity College.

When many students enter Unity College’s Con Law Program, they know exactly what career path they want to follow. Others, however, discover it well into their time at the College.

Trish Paskerta, who graduated from Unity in May 2018, was in the latter bunch.

“Really, I found what I wanted to do in my senior year, when I attended the National Park Service Seasonal Law Enforcement program,” Trish said. She studied in Colorado for four months, and it turned out, it was exactly what she had been looking for. “The more I learned about the National Parks Service, the more I thought it would be a good fit for me.”

Once she completed the training, she landed a job as a Law Enforcement Climbing Ranger at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.

“This job gives you the best of both worlds, combining the responsibilities of a park ranger and law enforcement,” Trish said. “I do the duties of a law enforcement officer, like patrolling, traffic control, responding to any complaints, and on top of that, I have climbing duties. In fact, about a week ago I summited Devils Tower, which was interesting.”

While Austin Harding also completed the program in Colorado, he returned to Maine’s Acadia National Park landing a job as Park Ranger (Protection), where he oversees duties ranging from responding to injured hikers and car accidents, to stopping cars for speeding or dangerous driving.

“If you had asked me my first year at Unity, I would’ve seen myself more as a general cop or a game warden,” Harding said. It was Assistant Professor Lori Perez who first suggested he look into the National Parks program.

Austin Harding, Park Ranger (Protection), walks through Acadia National Park, keeping an eye out for the safety of hikers, bikers, and motorists.

“It checked off a lot of things for me. It checked off my internship and gave me experience,” Harding said of his first summer at Acadia National Park. “It gave me law enforcement experience before I graduated, and while a lot of Unity College graduates do have that, others across the country aren’t always that fortunate. It’s not common to see someone with that experience right out of the gate.”

“We’re seeing a lot of students pursue this, and they’re getting a unique experience out of it,” said Zach Falcon, Assistant Professor of Conservation Law and Environmental Policy. “It’s also opening up a path for many of our Conservation Law students that they might not have thought of previously.”

Keegan Nelligan, one of six Unity College students to receive a position as a Maine State Deputy Game Warden this summer, prepares to patrol Long Lake in Naples, Maine.

With so many engaged students in the College’s Con Law major, it’s no wonder that the Conservation Law Club is one of the largest and most active on campus. Over the years, the club has become known for its civic engagement efforts on and off campus, and in April received the 2018 President’s Campus Leadership Award from the Maine Campus Compact, a nonprofit coalition of 18 colleges and universities.

Dr. Khoury nominated the club, emphasizing the students’ involvement and commitment to the community. “This group of students is highly engaged on campus, and off,” said Dr. Khoury. “Every year, they put hours and hours of work into community service, splitting wood, hosting the annual game dinner, and engaging in regional projects. This award is terrific recognition, not only for our Con Law club, but for our club system, Student Government, and the faculty sponsors and Student Success team that support them.”

The club averages anywhere between 30 to 35 students who volunteer more than 1,000 hours in the community, including cleanup days for the Maine Forest Service and Maine Warden Service. They also host the annual Wild Game Dinner at the Unity College Center for Performing Arts, which to date has raised more than $100,000 for various nonprofits.

It’s a really motivated group of students that we’re really proud of,” said Perez, the club’s faculty sponsor. “Their dedication to this program, and to the community, is amazing. They really take ownership of these initiatives, and it shows what kind of leaders they are becoming.”