Mimi Payne

By Zoë Eitel
Since she graduated in 2018, Mimi Payne has been working through various short-term, seasonal positions and internships within the science and conservation fields to really explore her interests.
This has included being a crew leader at the Student Conservation Association, a soil ecology research assistant at the Morton Arboretum, an ecological research technician at the Great Basin Institute in Nevada, another SCA crew leader position in South Dakota as well as her current internship. Mimi is a Wildlife, Fire and Recreation Intern with the US Forest Service through SCA. Since Mimi had worked with SCA before, she was aware of other opportunities available in the organization and took advantage of that knowledge. 
“I was attracted to this internship because I was going to be working closely with the Forest Service, which is an agency I had not worked closely with before, and I would like to have a government job and I knew this was going to be a good way to do it,” Mimi says.
Though her background in DePaul’s Environmental Studies program was in soils, Mimi has been able to get experience in other specializations within the field. While in South Dakota, she was doing chainsaw work removing trees, and in Nevada, she got experience in plant identification.
“I was living outside for eight days, camping in the desert and working 10-hour days. It was really different but really cool and fun,” Mimi says. “I got to see some new areas and work with plants more, have exposure to plant identification, which I really liked.”

Wildlife, Fire and Recreation Intern at Student Conservation Association

BA Environmental Studies 2018

Mimi has valued the experiences, especially the ones that have shown her what she does not want to move forward with. She recommends people who aren’t sure what they want to specialize in within the environmental studies field also try out their options to narrow down the choices.

“For students looking to do some of these seasonal jobs, just researching the organization and understanding their values is important because that will tell you the type of people it will attract.”

“If people want to try different things, a lot of these positions have given me exposure to other fields,” she says. “Working in Reno, I got exposure to working with plants more and I value that experience, but I know that’s not me, that’s not my interests, I’m just not a plant person, but some people have gone out there and they’ve really enjoyed it and thought it was super cool.”
Now, Mimi is really excited about working with fire after being trained in her current position to prep units for prescribed burns, perform fire suppression and prevention, mark timber and operate a dozer. After this position at SCA, Mimi will be moving to California for her first government job in a seasonal dispatch position working with fire.
Though her positions have been short-term and somewhat atypical, Mimi has gained valuable insights and experiences from all of them.
“Something I’ve really learned in all of these positions is how to work with people in a variety of settings and a variety of extreme conditions because oftentimes in these positions, I’ve had to live with my coworkers, which is not normal for most people,” she says.
Mimi is a bit surprised that she is still doing these seasonal jobs a few years after graduation, but she is happy being able to try a variety of different things and travel to see new and interesting parts of the country.
“I have friends who are working jobs that they may or may not enjoy, but I know I’m happier doing this,” Mimi says. “For students looking to do some of these seasonal jobs, just researching the organization and understanding their values is important because that will tell you the type of people it will attract.”
In May 2020, Mimi accepted a full-time position as an Initial Attack Dispatcher for the U.S. Forest Service in California through their Wildland Firefighting Apprenticeship Program.