10 April 2020

Adjusting to a New Fellowship in Unprecedented Times

Category: Blog

I’ve been at my fellowship with the Tennessee RiverLine for just at 6 weeks now, 4 of which have been under the COVID-19 safer at home order in Knoxville, TN.

Extraordinary times to be starting anything new to say the least. But I suppose we’re all adjusting to these new fellowships, in new places, with new and changing expectations.

These first few weeks at work have been ones of settling into the foundational information about the project and really hitting the ground running to move into our project timeline and programming for 2020. It certainly has not been a slow transition, but I think that kind of working atmosphere serves me well. All work is remote, so we are adjusting to new ways of communication and streamlining initiatives. Adapting to entirely virtual meetings and digital interactions on a daily basis has had its fair share of challenges.

Going totally virtual in the office by Lizzy Gardner

Aside from the environment created by COVID-19, I’ve found very quickly that my fellowship is much different than most in my cohort. My RTCA mentor is located two hours away in Chattanooga, TN so my direct supervisor on a daily basis is the Director of the RiverLine and professor at the University of Tennessee. I work solely on a single project (The Tennessee RiverLine) and my responsibilities within that project have been pretty significant and wide from the get-go.

To say that I love this project and what its ambitious nature is trying to achieve would be an understatement. A vision for a 652 mile multimodal hike, bike and paddle trail from Knoxville, TN to Paducah, KY is an undertaking I’m not sure anyone is actually prepared for. But here we are making that vision a reality, and I couldn’t be happier or more excited to be part of it. As an outdoor advocate and enthusiast and being in the outdoor recreation field for over a decade, this kind of urban wilderness project is beginning to have its moment and it’s exciting to see take hold in the southeast.

The outdoors have been a huge part of my personal and professional life for years, and to have that continue to my work within this National Parks Service fellowship is inspiring. It is my hope that this fellowship position will truly be an avenue to immerse myself into planning and development; a facet of the outdoor industry that I have not yet experienced. Building on my experience in outdoor programming and bringing it within an urban environment to engage with more diverse communities, and create an outdoor experience built on inclusivity is something I will strive to do with this fellowship. I’m excited to see where this takes me and the opportunities it bring to everyone in the Tennessee River Valley to participate in outdoor recreation!

Taking time to check out the riverfront amenities and parks on the Tennessee River in Knoxville. Photo by: Lizzy Gardner

Written by Lizzy Gardner, Community Planning Fellow in Knoxville, TN. 

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