When he’s not in a college classroom, Saint Mary’s University student Isaac Nemeth can’t stand the idea of being indoors.
“I just love being outside,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. I could be watching grass grow, and I’d be OK with it as long as I am outside.”
Loving all things outdoors, it makes sense that Nemeth has decided to major in environmental biology with a minor in zoology.
“I knew that once I graduated from college, I would want to spend my time working outside,” he said. “I want to be outdoors, moving around and avoiding a desk job as much as possible. So environmental biology seemed like the right major for me.”
And Nemeth’s passion for the natural world is what drew him to Saint Mary’s Winona campus. For the sophomore, there is no better place to study environmental biology than Minnesota’s Driftless Region.
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Nemeth said when he arrived at Saint Mary’s he was unsure what he wanted to focus on in the world of environmental biology. He found the courses on global warming and pollution interesting but not enough that it was something he wanted to pursue. After a unit on animals, it clicked, and Nemeth knew he wanted to focus on mammalogy, or the study of mammals.
With the goal of working in conservation once he graduates, Nemeth has already set himself up for success, as he has been accepted into the Conservation Corps of Minnesota & Iowa’s Increasing Diversity in Environmental Careers program. The goal of IDEC is to help under-represented STEM students complete their degrees and obtain careers in conservation and environmental management.
This summer, Nemeth will have the opportunity to receive hands-on experiences as he rotates through internships at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources. Then next summer, Nemeth will have the opportunity to intern full-time at a state agency. On top of the internship experience, he will receive mentorship through the program as he goes through his schooling.
Nemeth is grateful for the opportunity to take part in the program, knowing now that he won’t have to scramble for internships and other opportunities to learn outside of the classroom.
“It’s refreshing to know that I can continue to focus on school and have others helping me throughout my college career,” he said. “And then after graduating, I will be set because I will be able to pursue opportunities I was connected to through the IDEC program.”
While he’s not sure what each on-the-job experience will be like this summer, Nemeth is ready to jump right into the work.
“I told them in my interview that right now, I’m a sponge,” he said. “I said, ‘Whatever you give me, I want to absorb it.’ I’m ready to learn because college gives me little bits and pieces, and hopefully, this will give me the full picture.”
As Nemeth prepares for his internship, he says Saint Mary’s has prepared him for the experience. While he is grateful for what he has learned through his coursework, Nemeth says what has prepared him the most are his professors and the excitement they have about nature and conservation.
“Every time I’m in class, my professors are so passionate about what they are teaching,” he said. “Seeing others be passionate about what they are interested in makes me want to be even more passionate and really dive deeper into those subjects, especially when it comes to zoology and mammology.”