Donated photo. Pictured is Kirk Gardner, 2015 Haywood Community College fish and wildlife management technology graduate, at Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge in Swan Quarter, North Carolina. Gardner came back to school for a career in a field he loves and now works for Louisiana Ecological Services through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

 

When Kirk Gardner, 2015 Haywood Community College fish and wildlife management technology graduate, decided to come back to school for a career in a field he loves, he did not envision landing a job for Louisiana Ecological Services through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. Through his experiences as a student at HCC and the relationships he made through the College, Gardner made connections that carried considerable weight in the professional field. These connections helped land him a job he dreamed of.   

But, how do you put a value on a college degree? Recently, Gardner realized just what the value of his degree from HCC is. “When I applied for the job, I received a phone call from my soon-to-be boss that I did not qualify for the position because I did not meet the basic required class of botany, ornithology or zoology/mammalogy,” he explains. “I asked him if he had looked at my transcripts from HCC. After he reviewed my transcripts, I easily landed the job.”

Gardner says a four-year degree (which he has) was a requirement for the job, but it was the classes at HCC that seemed to be more important. “It is truly an honor to have attended such a fine program at HCC. It helped open many doors for me and for that, I am forever grateful.”

Gardner found out about the job opening from another opportunity he had as a student at HCC. He was a participant in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Pathways Program where current students work and get paid while still in school. Through Pathways, Gardner was a biological support technician where he got his foot in the door to gain tons of experience while familiarizing himself with how the government service works.

After finishing the program at HCC, Gardner continued his studies at Western Carolina University, where he graduated in December 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in natural resource conservation management.

Currently, Gardner is an endangered species technician at Fort Polk, Louisiana, where he works with Louisiana pine snakes and red-cockaded woodpeckers. His duties include monitoring the snakes and assisting the woodpecker with repopulation. In addition, he routinely participates in prescribed burns.

“At HCC, students go out into the field to practice what they are taught in the classroom. If I had not done these things at HCC, I would be taking additional classes to learn about them. But, HCC prepared me for all this and I was able to start work from day one.”

HCC’s fish and wildlife management associate degree program, accredited by the North American Wildlife Technology Association, is currently the only one offered statewide. Students enjoy the hands-on experience that often takes them into outdoor classrooms. For more information about the fish and wildlife program, please call 828-627-4560 or email jcarver@haywood.edu.

Registration for summer and fall semesters is underway now for both new and continuing students. With a variety of associate, diploma, and certificate programs to choose from, students can take the first step in realizing that education changes everything. Career counseling services are available for guidance. For more information on enrollment, programs of study or financial aid, call 828.627.2821 or visit haywood.edu.