by Emily Wurst

What do working at a wildlife reserve, living in the Marble Mountain Wilderness and backpacking through central America have in common? They are all things University of West Georgia alumna Bethany Liss has completed on her journey to a career in environmental conservation with the help of her degree in German and Global Studies.

Liss came to the university in 2007 as a part of UWG’s Advanced Academy program. A junior in high school at the time of her enrollment, Liss was able to begin her college education early. Following completion of the program, Liss made the decision to stay at UWG for the remainder of her education.

Bethany Liss

“I cannot reminisce about my time at UWG without thinking about the Advanced Academy,” Liss said. “It is the reason I attended UWG and holds a pretty special place in my heart. I could have chosen to transfer to any number of ‘better’ schools around the country, but the quality of teaching that I experienced at UWG and the interest that my professors took in individual students persuaded me to stay.”

For Liss, choosing a major at UWG was something that came naturally. As she explored her interests and opportunities, she found programs that perfectly aligned with what she had in mind.

“I had always been interested in the hard sciences, but felt that purely studying biology or chemistry wouldn’t properly prepare me for the career in environmental conservation that I was working toward,” Liss explained. “I was ecstatic upon discovering the Global Studies major at UWG because I could tailor it to my needs. I could get what I wanted out of the hard sciences, while adding a mix of the social sciences to better understand their real-world applications.”

Liss later added German as a second major as her interest in foreign languages grew. She also began traveling while she was still a student, participating in study abroad programs with the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.

“I felt encouraged to travel and gain real-world experience,” Liss said. “In fact, I felt as if my education would be largely incomplete without experience abroad, regardless of my possession of a diploma. This led to an accumulation of experiences that created the impetus for setting me on my current path.”           

Today, Liss utilizes her degree in Munich, Germany, teaching English as a second language in a kindergarten classroom. Her career path to this point has been anything but mundane.

 Among many exciting opportunities, Liss’s experiences since graduation have included learning Spanish while backpacking across central America, caring for monkeys in Costa Rica, and participating in restoration projects with AmeriCorps in the mountains of California with no access to modern-day amenities. These experiences have come with many lessons, from the science behind different types of soils to the process of starting a nonprofit.      

When describing Liss’s character, Dr. Muriel Cormican of the foreign language department recalled a popular quote about how “[society does not] need more successful people, but rather more people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane.” Cormican elaborates, stating, “Beth Liss is one of those people. She is an extraordinary, inspiring, committed, and active young woman. She reminds me of how wonderful the world can be and of how great it is to work with our students and see them hatch and fly."                              

For Liss, the journey is not over yet. She is planning a move to the Westfjords of Iceland to begin work on her master’s degree in Coastal and Marine Management in August, which is only the next step on her wild adventure.

“In five years, ideally I’ll be working toward my Ph.D., doing research focused on coastal and marine conservation and social-ecological systems,” she said. “Granted, I’ve had a lot of five-year plans over the last five years and none of them have quite come to fruition. So, in five years’ time, I’ll likely be doing what I do best, adapting my plans according to what each new day brings.”

Posted on May 31, 2017