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UMW's Tamie Laverdure to become game warden

UMW News Bureau

Tamie LaverdureUniversity of Montana Western environmental interpretation senior Tamie Laverdure came to college certain she wanted to pursue a career in conservation.

Laverdure was less certain she had the ability to make her pursuit a reality, but as the 42-year old finishes the final credits towards her degree and prepares to become one of only five female game wardens in Montana, it is clear much has changed since her freshman year.

“I feel so lucky,” Laverdure explains. “My biggest advantage was going to Montana Western. My academic experience prepared me, but the biggest thing is the belief in myself, the confidence.”

Before coming to Montana Western, Laverdure was operating heavy equipment in a gold mine near Jefferson City, Mont. She wanted more out of her work and after a visit to the UMW campus in summer 2008, she enrolled in spring 2009.

Montana Western’s block scheduling system Experience One, in which students take a single class at a time, particularly appealed to her.

“When I found out about the block, I said ‘I can do that. I know I can do that,’” Laverdure says. “Montana Western is big on hands-on learning and doing work in the field, things that apply to a career.”

“I feel so lucky,” Laverdure explains. “My biggest advantage was going to Montana Western."

She is currently a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (Montana FWP) game warden trainee in Region 3. Laverdure will graduate at the 115th UMW Commencement on May 5, 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Interpretation with dual minors as a Pre-professional Conservation Officer and Biological Naturalist. Upon graduation, she will become a probationary game warden in Region 1.

In 2010, Laverdure completed an unpaid internship traveling with regional game wardens, a U.S. Forest Service backcountry law enforcement officer and a Bureau of Land Management Officer documenting their work in photographs. Laverdure created the “wildlife experience” concept with the full support of her professors.

In 2011, Laverdure interned with Montana FWP at the Montana Wild education center. As part of her internship, she was tasked with creating a bear awareness program. By taking a holistic approach to bear education, she designed a full tour that took visitors through several stations covering bear biology, the wildlife-urban interface, recognizing signs in bear country, examples of camps that were and were not correctly prepared for bears, a demonstration on how to correctly hang food in a camp and an example of a bear-proofed hunting camp.

Laverdure’s project was featured in the November-December 2011 issue of Montana Outdoors, the official magazine of the Montana FWP.

In fall 2011, Laverdure substituted a conservation biology class and a conservation law class in Blocks 5 and 6 to work full-time as a warden trainee, completing over 320 hours of hands-on training in Helena, Mont.

Ron Jendro is currently acting as the head training and hiring officer for Montana FWP enforcement. He worked with Laverdure extensively during fall 2011 and says Laverdure’s work ethic and determination, as well as the freedom the Experience One program afforded Laverdure, contributed to her success within the agency.bear trailjonkel 109 

“Once Tamie knew what she wanted to do she put her mind and knowledge toward doing it,” Jendro says. “She was able to use those two blocks well, and it really helped us because we were shorthanded. It was also really great for her to do things like work the front desk and field a lot of enforcement questions and just learn more about the main agency by working in headquarters.”

Although she will be a female in a predominately male field Laverdure says she is well accustomed to working in similar environments.

“I grew up on a ranch and went right into construction and heavy equipment, so I’ve worked in a male-dominated world,” Laverdure explains. “I know I’m the minority, but I try not to let that deter me.”

While working in law enforcement can be dangerous, and particularly so for wardens approaching hunters in remote areas, Laverdure says her experience as a hunter and fisherwoman herself will help diffuse any potentially dangerous situations.

“My biggest asset I can have in a negative contact is my attitude, body language and the words I choose to use” Laverdure says. “I hunt. I fish. Although I was never in trouble, I have been in their shoes and I can ask myself, ‘How would I want to be treated by a game warden if it was the other way around?’”

Laverdure had the unique opportunity for real-world experience to understand what it was like to be a game warden through a mentorship with Montana FWP Region 3 Warden Kerry Wahl, which included 45 hours of training shadowing Wahl on ride-alongs as well as in the office.

Laverdure also says that, time and again, her experience at Montana Western proved to be an asset that set her apart in her pursuit of the game warden position, citing the commitment of her professors and the hands-on experience she received at UMW as part and parcel of her success.

“When I came to Montana Western I didn’t truly believe in myself and believe I could make it happen until I met three professors,” Laverdure adds. “Linda Lyon, Sheila Roberts and, in particular, Richard Clark helped me so much. Now, to have a career — not a position, a career — is huge and lets me know my hard work has paid off.”

Retired Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences Richard Clark says that although he believes the Montana Western environmental interpretation program uniquely prepares students for careers in conservation and natural world education, Laverdure reached her full potential on her own accord.

“Whatever Tamie has done came from within her,” Clark says. “She knew what she wanted to do. The only thing that we the faculty could do is act as a mirror to help her see what she could do and how she could do it. We knew all along that she was capable and able. The trick was being able to show her that she had that ability.”

“When I put on my uniform with my badge and look in the mirror I have to pinch myself and ask myself if it’s real,” she adds. “But knowing all the hard work I put into it, I can say, ‘Yeah, it’s real.’”

Laverdure clearly has the ability. Still, she says her new career came with a lot of hard work and determination and although it seems surreal, she says thinking of all the work it took to get where she is reminds her she finally really is where she wanted to be.

“When I put on my uniform with my badge and look in the mirror I have to pinch myself and ask myself if it’s real,” she adds. “But knowing all the hard work I put into it, I can say, ‘Yeah, it’s real.’”

For more information on the UMW Environmental Sciences Department, visit http://www.umwestern.edu/programs/environmental-sciences.

Students who are interested in warden trainee positions should contact the Montana FWP office in Helena. Two positions become open annually in the spring for students in the Montana University System. Warden trainees work full-time in summer and part-time during school. For more information, e-mail or call (406) 444-5653.

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