For education to be truly hands-on, students need to apply what they learn in the classroom to experiences in the world around them. This can mean internships, experiential labs, and undergraduate and faculty-supported research projects, but arguably the most unique opportunity for learning outside the rigor of the classroom is professional conferences.

“Professional development outside of Unity, among future peers and leaders, is essential to a well-rounded, practical education. We encourage our students to take every opportunity they can,” Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury said. “Attending professional conferences allows students to immerse themselves in the latest tools and trends of their chosen fields, while also forming lasting relationships with multiple professionals who can give them a step up in the job market. It gives them a chance to preview the many places their career might take them — down roads they may have never imagined. And when people from across states, nations and the world come together, everyone benefits from the resulting diversity of thought and experiences.”

The leading professional organization dedicated to interpreting the natural and cultural resources of our world, the National Association for Interpretation, has awarded Jill Brigham (‘20) one of two undergraduate scholarships for their upcoming national conference in Spokane, Washington. The scholarship will enable Brigham to attend the conference, all expenses paid, in mid-November. There she will have the chance to participate in workshops, network with nearly 1,000 interpretive professionals from across the country, hear keynote speakers, and represent Unity College on the national stage.

“The way I learn is by getting out in the world and testing out what I love. Hands-on learning is how I’ve always figured out my life path, and this conference will let me work directly with professionals in the fields I’m working towards,” she said. “My mindset is to use the world as my classroom. I love networking, professional experiences, and, most importantly, deeper learning regarding topics I care about. I’m really looking forward to this opportunity.”

Brigham is the seventh Unity student to receive the award in the past decade, joining Joshua Pittendreigh ‘16, Laurel Sullivan ‘18, Laura Parmenter ‘17, Lucero Torres ‘14, Joy Kacoroski ‘13, and Tim Cassidy ‘06. The application process has always been extremely competitive, with only three students — two undergraduates and one graduate — receiving scholarships from hundreds of applications this year.

“This is a great way for Jill to add to her tool kit for a career in environmental interpretation,” said Tom Mullin, Associate Professor of Parks and Forest Resources and a member of the NAI Board of Directors. “The conference features over 120 concurrent sessions, keynotes, field trips and workshops that are for beginners to top level executives and managers. She’ll make countless connections and be exposed to a diverse collection of people and ideas. Experiences like this are once in a lifetime.”

Besides her Unity College studies, Brigham recently worked as a Summit Steward at Acadia National Park. Sponsored by Friends of Acadia, Summit Stewards hike Acadia’s trails while educating visitors about Leave No Trace principles, performing trail maintenance, and carrying out trail censuses and other park research. She is also an officer and active member of the Unity College Chapter of the National Association for Interpretation.

In addition to Brigham and Associate Professor Mullin, Unity College’s development office will also have a presence at the conference in Spokane, staffing a booth at the conference to represent the College to peers in the interpretation field and engaging in dialog with potential partners.

“Our hope is to create partnerships and connect communities to further develop our innovative model for a real-world sustainable enterprise education,” Dr. Khoury said. “And to be able to support the work of students like Jill, and faculty like Tom, is a reward in itself.”

The National Association for Interpretation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the profession of heritage interpretation, serving nearly 7,000 members in the United States, Canada, and 30 other nations who work at parks, museums, nature centers, zoos, botanical gardens, aquariums, historical and cultural sites, commercial tour companies, and theme parks.