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Carrying Leopold’s Legacy Forward: Welcoming New Education and Membership Staff

A few weeks ago, we introduced you to two of the new faces on our Stewardship team. This week, we are pleased to share profiles for two talented individuals that have recently joined our Education and Membership staff!

Matthew Schoeffler, Membership and Visitor Services Coordinator

MattphotoWhat do you do for the foundation? 
I am the primary point person for all things regarding membership and fundraising.

What is your educational and professional background?
I have a BA in Communication and have a professional background in non-profit fundraising.

Where are you originally from?
Racine, WI

What brought you to work in the environmental field?
I wanted to work towards making a difference and leave a footprint of positive change.

When did you start working with the foundation?
June of 2015

How has working for the foundation changed your thinking?
I’ve learned so much about how humans affect the natural world, and I’m much more conscious about how I live my life because of this awareness.

What is your favorite Leopold quote/essay?
”The advertiser invents ideas, and ideas are seldom as honest as physical objects, even though they may be equally useless.” (from “Wildlife in American Culture.”)

Maria Kopecky, Outreach Education Coordinator

Maria KopeckyWhat do you do for the foundation?
I support our network of “Leopold ambassadors”- thousands of dedicated individuals sharing Leopold’s ideas throughout the country. These folks use the Leopold Education Project curriculum, the Land Ethic Leader program, our Aldo Leopold Weekend event model, and other teaching tools to advance the land ethic in their own communities.

What is your educational and professional background?
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from UW-Eau Claire and a Master’s degree in Environmental Education from UW-Stevens Point. My two years of graduate school were spent living, learning, working, and exploring at Conserve School, an environmentally-focused boarding high school in Land O’ Lakes, WI. I have also worked in environmental education and outdoor recreation at the Beaver Creek Reserve in Fall Creek, WI and the North Lakeland Discovery Center in Manitowish Waters, WI.

Where are you originally from?
I grew up exploring the forests and lakes of Mercer, WI. Also known as the Loon Capital of the World, Mercer is a small Northern Wisconsin town, located near the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

What brought you to work in the environmental field?
Outdoor appreciation and environmental ethics were instilled in me as a child and hands-on experiences throughout high school and college solidified my interest in pursuing a career in the environmental field. It wasn’t until I happened upon an environmental education internship in college that I found the perfect mix of creativity and the outdoors.

When did you start working for the foundation?
I started in April 2014 as an Education Fellow.

What is your favorite part of your job?
I really enjoy the variety of tasks I am given the opportunity to do throughout the year. From creating new Leopold Education Project curricula to co-leading Land Ethic Leaders workshops to designing promotional materials to planning our bi-annual Building a Land Ethic conference to greeting visitors at the front desk – there is always something new and exciting going on at the Leopold Center.

What is the biggest challenge?
One challenge is finding a balance among all the various projects that may be going on at one time, yet making sure each one is being given the attention it needs. Although this is sometimes difficult, I enjoy being busy and putting my organizational skills to the test.

How has working for the foundation changed your thinking?
My time at the Leopold Foundation has informed my thinking about ethics, values, and motivations. Learning from the participants in our Land Ethic Leaders program, from our Stewardship department’s My Wisconsin Woods initiative, and from Leopold himself, I have realized that each individual’s land ethic stems from a different place and is expressed in a different way. What’s important is respecting and learning from these differences.

What is your favorite Leopold quote/essay?
My favorite Leopold quote is “the objective is to teach the student to see the land, to understand what he sees, and enjoy what he understands” because I think that’s what environmental education is all about. The first step is to provide individuals the opportunity to have meaningful experiences outdoors, the second step is to teach them something about what they are observing, and then hopefully the third step of enjoyment will follow. If someone understands and enjoys something, they are much more likely to care for it and take steps toward securing its future.