Graduate Public Service Internship

Program Goal

The goal of the Graduate Public Service Internship Program is to provide graduate students with valuable experience in the public sector while they complete their graduate degrees through the University of Illinois at Springfield. The experience they gain will help them become competitive in the natural resources job market.

To learn more about the specific goals of the GPSI program please refer to the University of Illinois-Springfield website.

Program Description

The GPSI program is a 21-month internship experience. The IL DNR has partnered with the University of Illinois at Springfield to give currently enrolled graduate students the opportunity to receive professional experience and hands-on training in their internship.

Each internship opportunity is unique at IL DNR. Prospective interns are chosen to interview with different offices within the agency and can select the opportunity that is best suited to their interests.

In addition to the valuable experience interns obtain, the GPSI program covers the cost of full-time graduate enrollment tuition at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Interns work 20 hours/week during the school year to accommodate their full-time school schedule and 40 hours/week during the summer months. Interns receive stipends through UIS and professional development funds to expand their scope of learning.

What GPSI's Do

Since there are many unique internship opportunities at IL DNR, job duties may vary between departments. However, interns can expect to:

  • Aid the public and private sectors in natural areas preservation, endangered species protection, and rare resource stewardship
  • Become familiar with Illinois' natural resources, law, policies, and procedures
  • Develop critical thinking skills
  • Network with resource professionals and organizations within and outside of state government
  • Gain experience in communicating effectively with the public
  • Understand the relationship between science, public policy, and agency programs

Current and Former GPSI Interns

Interested in becoming a GPSI intern? Find out what our current and former interns are doing!

Megan Jacobsen

Megan Jacobsen began her internship with the Natural Heritage Database Program in 2021. Megan has a degree in Natural Science (BA), and is earning a degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in Policy and Sustainable Development (MA), while obtaining a certification for Geospatial Information Systems (GIS). As a GPSI, Megan works to keep the endangered and threatened species database up-to-date and organized, as well as taking opportunities to help with field work around the state. As part of her capstone project, Megan is working to learn more about the endangered silvery bladderpod, and identify best management practices for the species' continued health and survival in Illinois. In her spare time, Megan enjoys spending time with friends, traveling, and seeking out new opportunities wherever she goes.

Alex Davis

Alex Davis

Alex Davis interned with the Natural Heritage Database Program in 2017. Alex has a degree in Anthropology (BA) from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and a degree in Environmental Studies (MA, focus in Policy and Sustainable Development) from the University of Illinois Springfield. As a GPSI, Alex tracked records of Illinois's threatened and endangered species in the database, and learned about private landowner engagement in wildlife management. She also assisted with the species guidance for the state-threatened Franklin's ground squirrel, and gained lots of invaluable field experience, including conducting listed species monitoring and habitat management. After graduating, Alex spent two years in the private sector working on Nelson Land Management's ecological restoration crew, where she conducted invasive species management, timber stand improvement, and prescribed burns. Alex is now the Marketing and Outreach Specialist for the Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP), where she assists private landowers with land management practices, and conducts program outreach among the Illinois' hunters and anglers. In her free time, Alex enjoys hiking, gardening, mycology, and nature photography.

Samantha Scalice Isabella Newingham

Isabella Newingham began her position at the IDNR as the Aquatic Ecology and State Wildlife Action Plan GPSI in 2021. She graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Biology from Millikin University in 2020. Isabella spent the year following her graduation teaching at a local high school before starting a Master's degree in Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois- Springfield, with a concentration in Sustainable Development and Policy. While at Millikin University, Isabella completed research to observe behavioral responses in millipedes and was a member of their track and field team. During her internship, Isabella will focus on conservation status assessments of Species in Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and their habitat, the promotion of adaptive management by integrating monitoring and assessment into conservation stewardship activities, and field surveying for fish and mussels in Illinois streams. Isabella enjoys spending her time with her two-year old daughter and exercising.

Samantha Scalice

Samantha Scalice

Samantha Scalice began her position as GPSI of the Natural Areas Program in August of 2020. Samantha graduated from Purchase College (New York) in May of 2020 after obtaining a degree in Environmental Studies with an Ecology concentration and a Biology minor. Throughout her time at Purchase, she engaged in various activities such as maintaining a communal native pollinator garden on campus, researching the behaviors of urbanized Eastern Gray Squirrels, quantifying micro plastic contamination on shores, and spending her summers as an Endangered Shorebird Steward at a coastal state park monitoring Piping Plovers and other shorebird populations. Currently, she is working towards obtaining a Master's in Environmental Science and a certification in GIS from the University of Illinois Springfield. Samantha is excited by future opportunities during her time at the Heritage program, especially for fieldwork involving State-threatened Franklin's Ground Squirrels and Federally- endangered Piping Plovers. Samantha loves animals and pets of all kinds and enjoys attending live music events in her spare time.

Marissa Jones

Marissa Jones

Marissa Jones, interned with the Natural Heritage Database Program from 2019 to 2021 while earning her Master's degree from the University of Illinois Springfield in Environmental Science, with a focus in Land Management and Planning. A Girard, IL native, Marissa had the opportunity to perform a six-week mark and recapture study of the state-threatened mudpuppy in Robert Allerton Park for her graduate capstone project. Marissa valued this experience and believes it helped her to significantly expand her animal research skillset and build her confidence in the field. Something else that is interesting about Marissa is that she runs a small herd of Black Angus cattle with a few Galloway's (also known as 'oreo cows' on the Jones Farm) and has a flock of free-range chickens! She is even hoping to introduce a few goats or pigs to the farm eventually. Marissa is now serving as an apprentice at Lincoln Memorial Garden in Springfield, IL, where she will transition into the role of Head Gardener when her gardener mentor retires.

Thomas M. Kenny

Thomas M. Kenny

Thomas M. Kenny joined IDNR as Grant Administrator Intern. He is a 2010 graduate from Eastern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. Upon graduation, he began working at the Korean War National Museum, until its closure in 2017. Thomas attended the University of Illinois Springfield where he obtained a master's degree in Public Administration with a certificate in Management of Nonprofit Organizations. Thomas, who is the youngest of 10 children, grew up on a farm in the small town of Donnellson, IL, just south of Hillsboro. In his free time, he enjoys reading, playing trivia with his wife at local venues, and rooting for the New York Giants.

Beth Kramer

Beth Kramer

Beth Kramer joined the Division of Natural Heritage as an Endangered Species Program Intern. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. She attended graduate school at University of Illinois at Springfield, and obtained a Master of Arts in Environmental Studies and a certificate in GIS. In her free time, Beth enjoys camping, paddle boarding, and hiking with her dog, Jetta.

Liz Harney

Liz Harney joined the Division of Natural Heritage as a GPSI for the Natural Heritage Database Program, assisting with data entry and mapping of endangered and threatened species and natural areas. Liz is from Springfield, IL, and completed her Bachelor of Science at MacMurray College in Jacksonville. She also completed her master's degree in Environmental Studies at University of Illinois in Springfield. Liz enjoys traveling in her spare time. One notable adventure took her to Gambia, Africa where she conducted a conservation outreach project to teach locals about the importance of Honeybee conservation. When Liz isn't out exploring, you can usually find her in the gym, cooking up new vegan recipes, or watching a documentary with her two cats, Sheamus and Khaleesi.