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Andrew Zepp

  • Field of study: Natural Resources
  • Hometown: Pelham, NY
  • Fun fact: Only person I’ve ever met who has combined Natural Resources and ILR degrees from Cornell.
  • View Andrew's LinkedIn profile

What were you doing prior to your degree program?

Working in the conservation field as an entry-level Land Manager for The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut.

What were the biggest obstacles you overcame in order to participate in the MPS program?

Securing a leave of absence from The Nature Conservancy in order to ensure favorable employment upon completion of the MPS program.

Why did you choose to pursue the MPS degree?        

Since my Bachelor’s degree is from Cornell’s school of Industrial & Labor Relations, I knew that I would need additional education in order to advance in my chosen field of conservation.

What did you do after earning your MPS degree?       

I returned to The Nature Conservancy to serve as Director of Land Protection for its Central & Western NY program.

What are the strengths of your program, in your opinion? 

The program’s flexibility allowed me to focus on gaps in my education while also undertaking a substantive project – creating the non-profit, “Finger Lakes Land Trust.”  The MPS program also allowed me to pursue my multi-disciplinary interests and provided the foundation for skills and knowledge I use in my work today.

What were some of the most rewarding moments while in your MPS program?

The incorporation of the Land Trust was truly a memorable milestone.  Leading up to that moment, I enjoyed meeting and getting to know those local residents who stepped up to serve on the organization’s first board of directors.  Our first informational meeting was on a weeknight in a classroom in Fernow Hall.  I presented information on Land Trusts and the assembled group made a commitment to proceed on the spot.  The timing was perfect as there was growing recognition about this approach to conservation and the need for such a group for the Finger Lakes.

What are your short term and long-term career goals? 

I returned to Ithaca sixteen years ago to serve as the Land Trust’s Executive Director.  The organization today has a staff of 15 employees and engages more than 200 volunteers.  The Land Trust has conserved more than 23,000 acres of land and manages a network of nature preserves that are open to the public. It also monitors conservation easements on land that remain in private ownership.  I really enjoy my work and look forward to continuing in my current role.

What courses stand out as most helpful for your specific career goals?

In my case, the MPS project resulted in the creation of the organization that now employs me so that was clearly the most helpful in terms of my career goals. Coursework on topics such as environmental law, forest ecology, and soil sciences helped build a strong base that I’ve used to advance my work. The combination of coursework and the project together worked very well for me.

What professional organizations are you involved in? 

Membership in the Land Trust Alliance – the national organization of Land Trusts.

What advice would you give to your younger self embarking on the journey of graduate school?

Don’t be afraid to take risks.

How has your MPS experience changed you, both personally and professionally?

It helped me create the opportunity to advance conservation in a place I love and provided me with a good job in Ithaca!