This summer, the Champaign County Forest Preserve District welcomed a new director of museum and education.
After an extensive search, we were happy to bring on Kamryn Suttinger as the new leader of our department.
Although the position is new to her, she is not new to Champaign County and the East Central Illinois area.
To learn a little bit more about her, I had the chance to sit down for an interview.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to this job.
I’m passionate about connecting people to natural and cultural resources through unique and engaging experiences.
I have over 18 years of experience in the zoo and education field and love inspiring others to care for, enjoy and explore the world around them.
I was living in Houston, where I was an animal supervisor at the Houston Zoo.
I had started looking for an opportunity to leave the city and move closer to my family while being able to continue pursuing my passion for education.
I loved the conservation and learning initiatives I was a part of at the zoo and wanted to find similarly meaningful work in a smaller town.
Why work in the museums, zoo, nature center, etc., world? What motivated you to join this field and sustain a career within it?
There are a variety of careers available within museums, zoos, nature centers and forest preserves, so pathways can be incredibly diverse.
In my opinion, what’s special about working in these places is the personal fulfillment that can come from feeling connected to the organization’s mission and giving back to the community through education and enriching experiences.
I’ve always been fascinated with learning about the ways that cultural and natural resources are intertwined.
I consider myself lucky in that my career came about through pursuing opportunities that simply sounded fun and interesting.
The jobs I’ve had throughout my career include teaching at residential science camps, leading kayak tours and working my way from zookeeper to zoo supervisor.
My motivation has always been helping people connect with the world around them, and that’s something that museums, nature centers, zoos and forest preserves can all do.
What’s one unique fact most people would not know about you?
I can recite “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss in its entirety, due to my first job out of college, where we performed “The Lorax” twice a week as part of the wrap up to each camp session.
What excites you most about working in Champaign County?
There’s a lot of fascinating cultural and natural history in this area, and I’m excited to play a role in sharing it.
I’m also excited to work in Champaign County because I grew up nearby in Melvin. I also earned my bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois. As a kid, I had school field trips to the Museum of the Grand Prairie and often visited Lake of the Woods, so it also feels like a nice “full circle” moment.
Five years from now, what do you hope to have accomplished in your new role and/or continue working on?
I’m really excited about some of the projects that are in the works here at the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, including exhibits at the Museum of the Grand Prairie and plans to create new program spaces throughout the preserves, as well as at the Homer Lake Interpretive Center.
I hope that in five years, I’m effectively supporting these projects and many others.
Anything else you’d like to let others know about you?
I split my time between working at the Museum of the Grand Prairie at Lake of the Woods and Homer Lake Interpretive Center. Feel free to stop in and say “hi” if you’re out enjoying the parks.
Join us in welcoming Kamryn!