A Personal Experience with SOC

Why hello there,

My name is Asher Koles and I recently wrapped up a semester long internship with SOC. I also recently graduated from the University of Utah with a BS in Environmental Studies. I am a SLC native, and have grown up at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains. I could go on about how much Utah means to me, but I wanted to talk about my personal experience with SOC.

This is not my first time getting involved with SOC; in fact I was the grassroots intern in the summer of 2007. My duties changed quite drastically between then and now regarding projects and focus.

I was originally introduced to SOC through the bumper stickers that are strewn throughout Subaru’s in the Salt Lake Valley. I always wondered what SOC was about, but I was too busy enjoying the mountains and the desert to care.

In 2007 I received an email from a close friend informing me about possible real world experience with a environmentally based non-profit. Low and behold it was SOC. I quickly threw together a decent looking resume, a writing sample and sent it off to the executive director (ED) at that time. Not knowing really anything about SOC, or the issues, or what I was doing, I got a call for an interview. I went into the downtown office and tried to seem as enthusiastic as possible, hoping that maybe my lack of experience and knowledge could be overlooked, and my interest, independence and dedication could shine through. After the interview was over, I decided I had no chance. The ED at the time told me that others had applied and I was the youngest candidate for hire. I thought to myself, “why would they hire a young, inexperienced, snowboard bum?”

Two weeks later I get a call from the ED and she wants me to come into the office and have a second interview. At this point I’m pretty excited, and hoping to seal the deal. I go into the office and she tells me I got the job. I was thrilled, nervous, but mostly thrilled about a new experience and working for something that actually means something to me.

The summer of 2007 was great. I was introduced to the wilderness proposal, networking with community members and tabling. I developed new relationships with members and non-members throughout the valley, who cared about the Wasatch Mountains enough to support SOC. It opened my eyes to the down to earth, grassroots battle that organizations, communities and individuals are fighting to keep the Wasatch Mountains wild.

I always knew I loved the natural world, but I never knew the specific threats to its sustainability. SOC and its members opened my eyes to a new world of activism and organizations dedicated to preserving the health and wildness of places throughout Utah and the world.

After the internship ended in August of 2007, I declared my major: Environmental Studies. It was the closest thing possible to my interests at the time, and seemed to be the right fit for my new outlook on life. I kept in touch with the SOC staff, and volunteered at several events, while enjoying the Wasatch Mountains that much more.

As school was nearing its end I knew an internship was required to graduate. I decided that I would ask Carl and Havilah if I could once again come back and work under their wing. They agreed and a new process begun.

The internship started out with a few tabling opportunities, which are actually quite fun, and can be very beneficial for SOC, interested locals and students. As the semester went on, Carl, Havilah and I began to talk about reorganizing the media side of SOC. We decided on a couple different projects that I could do some research for and get the ball rolling on. How could we get SOC’s message and relay updates more efficiently to our members and concerned local’s? One way is through the integration of Google Earth within the SOC website, and the other is how to efficiently portray SOC’s issues and updates on everything from events, to the politics surrounding HR5009.

As the internship progressed, Carl and I ended up mapping out the wilderness boundaries in Google Earth. Hopefully soon we will have an interactive, up close and personal view of the boundaries proposed in HR5009, and some testimonials from local recreationists on their favorite trails. All of this digital media work is an attempt at engaging our audience and informing the public on what is happening in their backyard.

The semester is over, I have graduated from the University, and SOC is on the road to a comprehensive information system that will keep people in the loop. I am continuing work with SOC on the Google Earth project and anything else they need help with.

SOC has been a great way to channel my energy and guide my focus. The in office work and the work I have done independently has shown me that all it takes is an initial idea. My advice to anyone who is interested in activism and fighting for what they believe in is to volunteer, and get to know the agency and the issues. I still have a lot to learn, but I know that SOC has struck a wild hair within me, and this is not the end of my environmental activism.

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