17 June 2021

A Surprisingly "Dry" DFP Experience

Written by: Suzanne Banks

If you haven’t heard of the USFWS’ Directorate Fellows Program (DFP), it’s an intensive and immersive 11-week opportunity for college students (all levels) to use their skills to advance the mission of the Service. That is, to “work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.” Sounds pretty sweet, right?

Even if you have heard of the DFP, you might think it’s all “dirty” work, and maybe you’re not so into the idea of being submerged in a buggy bog, wearing chest-high waders trying to catch frogs. Well, guess what? If field work is not your thing, there are still plenty of ways you can support conservation in this program.

One positive takeaway from this past year is that we’ve learned how much we can do remotely. This summer, I’m working on several interesting and important communications projects to support the USFWS’ Office of External Affairs. Normally, this position would take place at the Service’s headquarters in Falls Church, VA. Instead, I'm almost 300 miles away, on a government-issued laptop at my NY home. In some cases, remote work can leave us feeling a bit detached and left out. I’m happy to say that thanks to my amazing boss, my cheery DFP career advisor, and HAF’s helpful staff, I am generously supported and always feel like part of the team.

My supervisor, a former DFP graduate himself, has gone above and beyond to make sure my remote experience is just as valuable and rewarding as his in-person fellowship was (in Alaska!). I’m in my 5th week and I have lost count of all the interesting and kind people I’ve already met on this journey. I have been encouraged to network, take trainings, and learn more about the Service and career paths that pique my interest. One of the best parts of the DFP is that after your academic graduation, you are put on a special direct-hire list for 2 years! This puts you into an exclusive pool of applicants for full-time permanent USFWS jobs! Instead of navigating the complicated USAJOBS application process, hiring managers can search through the direct-hire list, find a candidate with the education and experience they need, and reach out to you with a job offer! I was a bit skeptical of the process at first, but I’ve been assured that it is a program priority to match as many fellows with jobs as possible within those 2 years. I have seen firsthand that throughout the Service, Directorate Fellows are well-respected, and embraced with welcoming arms.

Almost halfway through my fellowship, I already know that the experience I am gaining, and connections I am making here at the USFWS will influence the trajectory of my career in conservation in a positive and meaningful way. I can't wait to see what the second half of my fellowship has in store!

Photo credit: Gary Peeples/USFWS

Alt text: People wearing brown and damp suspenders stand in a shallow stream holding long-handled wooden tools as they look to the wet earth below.

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: USFS Headquarters, Washington Office

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