Evergreen graduate teaches Senegalese farmers about natural resource conservation
Whether working for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), serving as a volunteer firefighter, or interning with the state legislature, Rowan Kelsall’s various academic and professional pursuits have provided him with a wealth of experience and excitement. Now, after graduating from Evergreen in 2017, he has joined the Peace Corps and is living in Senegal, where he serves as an Agroforestry Specialist, helping teach local farmers about natural resource conservation.
When Kelsall applied to Evergreen, he was a student at Seattle Central. He had been working at Virginia Mason Hospital as a service technician, and had previously worked as a seafood processor in Alaska. Having experienced a variety of settings, both professionally and academically, Kelsall was ready to try a more nontraditional approach.
After learning about Evergreen from school representatives, Kelsall decided that it was the ideal location for him to further his education.
“Having attended ‘traditional’ universities in the past it took me awhile to get use to Evergreen's structure, but once I understood that my academic career was free for me to shape, I began to flourish,” said Kelsall.
Flourish is exactly what Kelsall did, utilizing many of Evergreen’s resources, such as free bus transit, after school seminars and activities, and the student-run food bank. He also formed important relationships with his teachers, and though he says there are too many influential ones to name, Pauline Yu, Collen Rust, Kathy Kelly, Peter Bohmer, and Carrie Pucko stand out as a few.
As for his advice for students thinking about enrolling at Evergreen, Kelsall understands that the school is not for everyone, but believes that it excels at allowing you to chart your own path. He stresses that, particularly if you have a specific career in mind, Evergreen has all the tools to help you succeed.
“Evergreen provided me with a place to find out what kind of person I am,” Kelsall reminisced.
After graduation, Kelsall was encouraged by his career counselors at Evergreen to enlist in the Peace Corps as a way of choosing his own path.
“I knew I wanted to help make the world a better place,” said Kelsall.
Serving as an Agroforestry Specialist in Senegal, Kelsall works with trees, and educates local farmers about the impacts of deforestation and the importance of natural resource conservation. In addition, he helps teach farmers about the benefits of techniques such as composting and grafting.
“[It] can be slow going at times, but I find there is a tranquility in my work,” explains Kelsall.
Before graduating from Evergreen and packing his bags for Africa, Kelsall served as an intern for the legistlature in Washington, a popular internship program run through Evergreen each year.
As an intern, Kelsall wrote to constituents, attended meetings with senators, and researched information on various bills. In his spare time, he found a way to assist the internship program by helping with their “Page Program,” something he did by attending meetings and drafting resolutions to honor his fellow Washingtonians. Between that valuable experience, and the meaningful relationships he formed there, Kelsall is deeply grateful for earning the position.
“I was very fortunate to have been chosen for that internship,” said Kelsall. “The memories I made and the lessons I learned will stay with me for years to come.”
After Kelsall’s internship came to an end, he wanted to learn more about how certain policies affected local agencies and communities. With the help of his advisor Kathy Kelly, he reached out to the DNR and crafted a personalized internship through Evergreen’s unique student-led learning curriculum.
During his internship, Kelsall was able to play a part in establishing Washington’s Marine Spatial Plan, a document designed to help analyze and allocate the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities within the marine environment. Among other duties, Kelsall reached out to local fishermen, tribes, and other interagency organization to verify inputs throughout the planning process.
Kelsall also volunteered as a firefighter for DNR’s Wildland Firefighter Division (WFD), a role which he describes simply as the best job he’s ever had. As he explains, the job allowed him to see much more of Washington than he had ever thought possible.
Kelsall plans to pursue a double masters at the UW Evans School and School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, and then to work for a state agency in Washington. In fact, he would love to land a long-term gig with the DNR or the WFD, the two agencies which he grew so fond of during his past internships.
“Washington is a beautiful state,” he exclaimed. “I want to do my part in helping keep her beauty for generations to come.”