For Rebecca Budrock ’21, Conservation Is a Way of Life

When Rebecca Budrock ’21 headed down the East Coast in August 2020 to complete an internship with the Washington Internship Institute (WII), she thought she would be there for a semester — her final semester at Colby-Sawyer. Three years later, the Hurleyville, New York, native is still in the mid-Atlantic region, with no plans of leaving.

Becca joined the WII program and moved to Arlington, Virginia, to serve as the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) intern for Ballotpedia. Becca had learned to use GIS, a computer application that uses spatially-referenced information to analyze data and display results in map form, as an environmental science major. Her internship had her using GIS in relation to voting-district boundaries in the 2020 election.

Though Becca’s required internship ended in December, making her a February 2021 graduate of Colby-Sawyer, Ballotpedia offered to extend her internship. She moved to Washington, D.C., picking up a second internship with a political polling firm along the way. In May 2021, she was hired by the Appalachian Conservation Corps (Americorps) to work with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) as an Americorps land steward.

“VOF is a Virginia state agency that holds conservation easements throughout the state,” Becca said, explaining that easements are deeds that set a range of restrictions on a property to protect the unique conservation values that the property contains. “My job was to monitor easement properties throughout the Piedmont region of Virginia and create reports detailing what I had seen while I was on the property … As a transplant to Virginia, there was no better way to get to know the landscape around me than to have a job that allowed me to explore that landscape every week.”

A little more than a year later, VOF offered Becca a full-time position as a conservation assistant in their office in Warrenton, Virginia.

“As a conservation assistant, I have a lot more responsibility,” Becca said. “I am the first point of contact for the landowners of the approximately 2,200 easement properties in the Northern Piedmont who have questions about their easement. A lot of those questions turn into formal reviews, where I need to review the file for a property and make a determination about whether or not a certain activity would be allowed on that property.”

In her role, Becca has reviewed commercial timber harvests, subdivisions and the construction of outdoor riding rings, dwellings, sheds and more. It has given her an opportunity to work with a wide range of landowners and learn a tremendous amount about the local landscape and ecosystems from people who have lived and worked there for decades.

“I am planning to stay with VOF for the foreseeable future,” Becca said. “There is a lot of room for me to learn and grow with this organization, and I have really only begun to scratch the surface where conservation easements and local-level conservation is concerned.”

The outcomes reports from the Harrington Center for Experiential Learning indicate that, like Becca, 99% of the Class of 2021 and 100% of the Class of 2022 were employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation. Read more about Colby-Sawyer graduate outcomes.