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How Did I Get To EE? By Past President, Shannon Culpepper

Growing up I always knew I wanted to “save the planet.” Not that I knew exactly how to do that. As I started college I decided one avenue was to work for the government- those who make the rules and laws that protect the environment, particularly at the national or international level.

So, I ended up pursuing an Environmental Studies degree at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Not a science degree, but a bachelor of arts. I took classes like Natural Resource Management and History & Philosophy of Natural Resources. After graduating, I began working for the county government doing environmental management at the county landfill and was involved in the local Keep America Beautiful affiliate. I also helped to organize an annual Earth Day festival which brought together over 100 exhibitors working to protect the environment and the general public eager to learn what they are doing and how they could get involved.

After a couple of years I decided to go back to school for a master of public administration at UNCW. I reconnected with a previous professor who told me all about how the Environmental Studies program had grown since I had graduated. This persuaded me to simultaneously get an environmental studies graduate certificate. I thought the combination of public administration and environmental studies would better prepare me to work get the job I wanted- working for the government creating rules and laws to protect the environment.

During my time in graduate school, however, I learned about the field of environmental education. Turns out I had been doing some of it myself through tours of the landfill, giving presentations to the public, and the annual Earth Day festival. I just didn’t realize it could be a career! So, this realization started me on another path.

Post graduation, I worked as an AmeriCorps member for the N.C. Division of Air Quality, where I developed an outreach campaign for older adults. I also started working on my EE certification and taking lots of workshops, classes, etc. This work, and the campaign were incredibly rewarding, a wonderful learning experience, and solidified my passion for environmental education.

I currently work for Chatham County Solid Waste & Recycling as the Waste Reduction Coordinator. I manage our recycling and special disposal programs and provide education and outreach to the community. I provide presentations to classrooms and community groups of all ages, table at events to answer the public’s questions, and create our signage and educational materials. Helping residents of Chatham County understand how to properly dispose and recycle right is my way of trying to “save the planet.”


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