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Snyder Fellowship Recipient Following Au Sable Founder’s Footsteps

Mar 26, 2014

North Park student Katie Patterson is one of the many students indebted to the legacy of Dr. Harold Snyder, and now it’s her hope to follow in it.  

Patterson is the first recipient of the Harold Snyder Fellowship, established on the 50th year since Dr. Snyder first took his college students from Taylor University for field studies at the Au Sable Trails Camp for Boys. The fellowship was established by two of those first college students along with the other friends appreciative of Snyder’s role in their life and the life of the Institute. Through this fellowship, they hope to attract students with a similar passion and calling for educating others about God’s creation and giving it shape through field courses at the Institute. Students like Patterson.

It was through courses at Au Sable Institute’s Pacific Rim last summer that Patterson first discovered her calling, and it is through courses this summer that she’s broadening and strengthening her knowledge and skills in the natural world to educate others about wonders of God’s earth.  

“It was last summer that solidified that this is what I want to do and where I want to be,” she said. “I want to teach biology. I want to teach students and people all about God’s creation and how it’s so magnificent and wondrous.”

When she talks specifics, she sounds much like her fellowship’s namesake.

 “I am very passionate about teaching others about the environment and about conservation,” says Patterson, “but I specifically want to teach classes or programs that bring people out into the field.”

The same motivation is what drove Harold Snyder into Northern Lower Michigan to find a piece of land on which to teach students about “God’s word in God’s world,” science and scripture together.

Patterson’s advisor at North Park University, Dr. Linda Vick, sees the similarities. 

“Katie epitomizes the ideals set forth by Harold Snyder,” Vick said. “She is so charismatic and engaged in everything she’s doing. She sees the connections between what she’s learning and experiencing, and is interested in bringing the ideas of science to life.”

Patterson’s calling has developed out of what she’s studied in the classroom and seen through experience.  As an intern with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and volunteer at the Shedd Aquarium, her experiences have given depth to her studies in the field and classroom.

“There are an increasing amount of children today who don't spend time outside, among nature. The implications of this could be devastating for the environment and for future generations,” explains Patterson. “This is why I feel called to educate the public about conservation of the environment. [It’s] a calling that I believe Dr. Snyder felt, as well.”

After taking two marine courses -- ‘Marine Biology’ and ‘Marine Mammals’ -- last summer, Patterson will learn about other aquatic environments that have direct connections to ocean life and quality, taking courses in ‘Lake Ecology and Management’ and ‘Watersheds in Global Development’ at the Great Lakes Campus.  Her enthusiasm for her experience this past summer is something she hopes to replicate in the community and courses she will discover in Michigan.

“My experience at [Au Sable’s] Pacific Rim [campus] last summer left me craving another Au Sable experience! I learned so much through my courses and was surrounded by such a wonderful community of students and professors the whole time. I left with so many new friends and amazing memories!”

While Au Sable was a touchstone for her studies, as for many people with a passion for nature, the groundwork for developing a love of God’s earth was laid at a young age, something Dr. Snyder sensed when he created the Au Sable Trails Camp for Boys in 1961.

“My love and passion for God's Creation is something that has grown from the time I was very young,” explains Patterson. “I am blessed to have wonderful parents who cultivated my love for the outdoors through trips to the local nature centers and parks as well as vacations to national parks around the country. I've always seen God's handiwork in nature, but as my faith grew I feel that my vision has become clearer: I see God all around me! I want to help everyone else see Him, too!”

These characteristics make Patterson a fitting choice as the first recipient of the Snyder Fellowship, which seeks to inspire future leaders in the mold of Dr. Snyder by helping them develop the passion, vision and skill to do and teach science to others as an expression of Christian faith and as a commitment to serve and protect God's earth.