Clarah Buhman wants to be outside. Every day.
Growing up, she loved to kayak and bike with her family. She volunteered at a Nature Center after high school. “I knew I wanted to play outside, I didn’t know my career options. I wanted to take people outside, to be with trees, plants, water.”
From Bettendorf, Iowa, Buhman didn’t know she wanted to go to college. She enjoyed horticulture and animal science dual credit classes in high school and enrolled in Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She completed her associate degree in parks and natural resources. While there, she had an opportunity to attend the National Association of Interpretation Conference in Denver. Only two colleges were present: Kirkwood and UW-Stevens Point.
“It took me a couple days to get up my nerve to talk to another professor,” Buhman said. She finally approached Brenda Lackey, associate dean of the College of Natural Resources, who encouraged her to talk to some of the UW-Stevens Point students also attending the conference. They sold her on UWSP.
“I went from not wanting to go to college to not wanting to go to a four-year to now loving it,” Buhman said. She is a senior majoring in environmental education and interpretation, one of 409 students who transferred to UW-Stevens Point in fall 2021.
She liked learning and socializing but didn’t like taking tests. “Now I can stand on frozen Lake Joanis and identify trees for my labs.”
The transfer process included sending transcripts and working with staff who examined transfer agreements between the two institutions. Bobbi Kubish, a specialist with the CNR Student Success Center, assisted. Buhman has since helped four other Kirkwood graduates transfer to UW-Stevens Point.
She was a bit concerned that as a transfer student, she would be the only junior who didn’t know everyone else. It didn’t last long. “It’s easy in my field. We do group work and ‘turn and talk’ in several classes,” Buhman said.
She also got involved in student organizations, initially with Environmental Educators and Naturalists Association and the UWSP Fire Crew, where she now is treasurer. She participates in intramural volleyball and joined a bowling league. She also works in the Office of Admissions and Recruitment as a campus ambassador.
“Clarah always brings a positive attitude when working in our office and is a joy to be around,” said Rachel Siebers, associate director of Admissions and Recruitment.
She is treasurer of the UWSP Fire Crew, having completed her basic wildland fire certifications in Iowa. She’s participated in controlled burns in three states and enjoys this land management tool. Hands-on learning at Schmeeckle Reserve, Treehaven field station and elsewhere has opened her to many possibilities.
It was fun to spend a day teaching the water cycle to second graders at McDill Elementary last fall, she said. She enjoys working with children and is also interested in reaching adult learners – “especially those who think they’re too old to learn” a new outdoor skill.
She enjoys working as a wilderness guide, too, as she has seasonally in the Lake Superior area.
A bachelor’s degree includes learning that goes beyond job skill preparation, Buhman said. “I’m learning more than what I’m majoring in – social skills, people skills, diverse backgrounds, how to offer inclusive activities, leaving no trace. We’re learning, but it’s fun.”
Faculty challenge students and also help them become comfortable, confident and even creative in their career paths, Buhman said, such as using music as an attention getter in environmental education.
She’s learned about many job opportunities and networked with numerous professionals, Buhman said. “The college already has connections all over the U.S.”
For more on the transfer process, visit this Admissions page.