NextGen Spotlight: Emma Connors

This column shines a light on rising leaders in public lands and outdoor recreation who participate in PNTS’ Trail Intern Grants or Trail Apprentice Program (TAP). Trail Intern Grants help organizations hire interns to further their missions and expand their capacities. The TAP helps up-and-coming ad aspiring outdoor professionals aged 18-28 network and discover pathways to careers in trails or similar fields.

Emma Connors

“I grew up hiking trails around Bozeman almost every day of the summer, and genuinely I am the person I am today because of that experience. Hiking trails taught me grit, gave me an appreciation for diversity and care for the vulnerable, showed me the kind of person I wanted to be, and helped me discover my passion for the outdoors and desire to spend my life caring for it,” said Emma Connors, a 2021-22 Trail Apprentice and recent graduate from the University of Notre Dame. 

Emma’s passion for the outdoors has led them to participate in a range of service and professional activities that allow them to combine their skills in graphic design, leadership, trail maintenance, and more. Emma found the PNTS Trail Apprentice Program (TAP) through her supervisor from the Montana Conservation Corps Youth Program (MCC) which they worked for as a Senior Expedition Leader this summer. Since completing the TAP, Emma has continued to volunteer for and support PNTS, and they hope to continue building connections with other organizations that work to conserve the outdoors. 

For Emma, trails are important for all people and should be accessible to all because they are essential for wellbeing, happiness, and social connections. But the connections do not end with people; Emma appreciates the way trails help us see the connections within ecosystems that include “plants, bugs, rocks, and animals” as well as humans. Seeing these connections have given Emma “an appreciation for the diversity and deep care for the vulnerable.” Trails are places where meaningful connections can be made. 

Participating in the TAP solidified Emma’s career trajectory in the outdoors. They said, “it helped me articulate my specific passion, to work in a career that makes the outdoors—trails, forests, parks, rivers, mountains—more accessible to all.” Moving forward, Emma hopes to be part of creating a future where trails are accessible to everyone, and everyone feels safe and welcome in the outdoors. “I especially hope to see more Indigenous representation in the groups who make decisions about the future of trails and recreation—this land we all are privileged to enjoy is theirs, and they know best how to care for it.” 

Emma recently began a full-time position with the City of Bozeman Parks Department where they will “help manage parks as well as trails throughout the town,” and make a “direct impact on creating outdoor spaces for all folks to enjoy.” They will also continue to do freelance graphic design and work with outdoor organizations to amplify their message.