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Dream job awaits APSU biology student

With only a few months to go in her college career, Dawn Danielson made what, at first glance, might seem to be an unusual decision. Shes taking the semester off at Austin Peay State University, postponing her graduation until next spring.

But Danielsons not too worried. The reason for her delay is because she was awarded a coveted CO-OP through the Army Corps of Engineers this fall. The CO-OP works somewhat like an internship, with Danielson doing hands-on work as a park ranger at nearby Cheatham Lake.
With only a few months to go in her college career, Dawn Danielson made what, at first glance, might seem to be an unusual decision. She's taking the semester off at Austin Peay State University, postponing her graduation until next spring.

But Danielson's not too worried. The reason for her delay is because she was awarded a coveted CO-OP through the Army Corps of Engineers this fall. The CO-OP works somewhat like an internship, with Danielson doing hands-on work as a park ranger at nearby Cheatham Lake.

But the best part of the deal happens after she graduates. Once Danielson earns her diploma, she'll have a job waiting for her within the Corps Nashville District.

“This is how they hire their park rangers, through this CO-OP program,” she said. “It's rare they hire anyone straight on.”

Being a park ranger isn't simply a job for the APSU senior. It basically amounts to getting her dream job before she even finishes college.

“I always wanted to do something like that, but I didn't know how to get into it,” she said. “You are out in nature on a daily basis, so basically my office is everything outdoors.”

When she arrived at Austin Peay, her interest in nature and wildlife led her to the department of biology. It became her major, but she wasn't sure what she'd end up doing with her degree.

Then one afternoon, Danielson noticed an announcement the Corps had sent to the biology department, looking for students interested in applying for the CO-OP. After a grueling, three-month interview process, she was awarded the job. She now works at Cheatham Lake, doing everything from natural resource management and conservation work to patrolling the grounds and enforcing rules and regulations.

“It took me at least about a week to realize it's really happening,” she said. “I'm going to have a good job I enjoy when I finish college.”

She hopes her experience will encourage other APSU students to seek opportunities such as this, and to pay close attention to the fliers that go up on departmental bulletin boards. -- Charles Booth