News Items - Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education
Member Kyle Kraft Culkin talks about a mentor relationship that started at AORE's annual conference and how it impacted his professional development and career.

I attended my second AORE annual conference at Snowbird in 2012. I was on my own from my school and the trip was entirely self-funded. Luckily, I met up with some people that I had connected with the year prior and knew a few alumni from my school's program. I also hit it off with the strangers with whom I shared a hotel room. However, the most important part of the experience was the beginning of my mentor relationship with Steve Campbell. Many of you know already know Steve Campbell as a quick-witted, friendly lad who is always willing to lend a helping hand. He has also served as a longtime member of the Student Development Committee and can frequently be found at the CareerHQ during annual conferences. But that only represents the surface of his contributions to this organization and the larger industry.
It all started on the first day of the conference when we were herded into the lobby to prepare for the Student Networking Lunch. I made a beeline for Steve once I saw him in the crowd. Conveniently some of my student friends also had new mentors that happened to already know Steve, so we ended up enjoying lunch together in a large group. At first, it felt like an awkward first date for all of us as we took time to learn the basics about each other. The mentors did their best to put us at ease. I remember Steve's warmth and cheerfulness made me feel welcome and soon it felt just like we were old friends telling stories by the campfire. That was not only the start of a mentorship that day. It was also the beginning of a friendship that has lasted throughout the years ever since.
After the annual conference that year, Steve became the most important resource in my nationwide search for a Graduate Assistantship at a College Outdoor Program. We checked in via cross-country phone call within a week of the conference to make a game plan. Steve edited my four-page, anxiety-produced resume, helping me condense and clarify the information into a masterpiece that truly showcased my expertise. He also helped me make connections with people around the country that had a wealth of insights to share with me from going through their own undergraduate, graduate, and professional experiences. Even after I got the application process fully underway, Steve continued his support through ongoing communication where we discussed interviewing skills, professional philosophy, and best practices, among many other topics.

Steve not only played an integral role in expanding my professional network through both AORE and college outdoor programs in general. Detailed accounts of his own experiences working for outdoor programs also helped to steer me towards a career path that would be suitable for my unique interests and strengths. Steve was there to offer advice as well once I was hired, sensing that some extra support would be more than welcome as I entered the new role at an entirely new institution of higher learning.

Thinking back, Steve set a high bar for how a mentor relationship should be modeled. His wisdom and guidance were valuable beyond words. I felt supported, valued, and completely at home in this professional community I was joining. I still look to Steve as a role model and mentor in the field although our formalized mentorship ended years ago. We make sure to hang out when we see each other at conferences and share many mutual friends at AORE and out in the field.
Steve even recently reached out to me looking for advice on trip locations in my region. This felt like our mentor relationship coming full circle in me being able to help him.
I have continued work with the Student Development Committee and the CareerHQ over the years thanks to Steve. These experiences have allowed me to follow in his footsteps and serve as a mentor to students and young professionals who remind me of how I started out all those years ago. For example, I have reviewed resumes for students, conducted mock interviews, and created meaningful professional relationships with individuals who are just entering the field. I have formally participated in AORE’s mentorship program in the role of mentor several times as well. I can only hope I have am able to have the same sort of positive impact on the students I work with that Steve had on me. Truly, the mentorship program was one of the most important opportunities AORE provided to me and I hope to continue paying it forward to others who have a passion to grow and carve out their own special path and purpose in the field of outdoor education and recreation.

*Article Authored By: Kyle Kraft Culkin, AORE Member, Student Development Committee Volunteer

Categories: Career Advancement, College/University, Conference News, Membership, Networking, Professional Development
Published: 04/25/19