DuBOIS, Pa. — Penn State DuBois alumnus Gary Alt returned to campus on Monday, Oct. 23, in the Hiller Auditorium to share information on his professional background and to offer students some advice based on his experiences and career.
Part of the first wildlife technology class in 1972, Alt worked as a wildlife research biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission for more than 27 years, including 22 years leading the statewide black bear research management program. He was also the head of the statewide deer research and management program for five years. During his tenure with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Alt was responsible for launching some of the largest field studies in the country on black bears and white-tailed deer and made some of the most sweeping changes to bear and deer management in the history of the state. Currently, Alt is the curriculum coordinator for the Wildlife Leadership Academy. Its mission is to engage and empower high school age youth to become conservation ambassadors to ensure a sustained wildlife, fisheries and natural resource legacy for future generations.
The presentation was hosted by the Wildlife Society, with member Elizabeth Bruner, second-year wildlife technology student, spearheading the effort to have Alt come to DuBois to share his knowledge with students at Penn State DuBois.
“I’ve known Gary Alt since 2018 when I took part in the Wildlife Leadership Academy,” Bruner said. “In planning an event earlier in the year for the Wildlife Society, I talked to Gary, and he said he would like to come back to the campus, see how much it has changed and meet the students in the program now. I contacted him when I knew he was going to be in the area to invite him to come, and that’s how we got this program going today.”
While Alt shared many details about his life — including his time growing up on a dairy farm in northeast Pennsylvania, as well as working for a lumber company learning about tress and how to identify them — his presentation to students focused on professional advice.
Alt, who holds an associate degree in wildlife technology from Penn State DuBois, a bachelor’s degree in wildlife science from Utah State University, a master’s degree in wildlife management from Penn State and a doctorate in forest resources science from West Virginia University, shared an experience during his time as a student where he was interviewing for a graduate research position he deeply wanted. During this interview, Alt said he answered questions based on what he believed the interviewer would want to hear instead of giving an honest answer and being himself. It almost cost him getting the position.
Alt also shared details about his time with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. While his work there led to some breakthrough research and sweeping changes for both the black bear and whitetail deer populations throughout the state, it didn’t come without its own controversies. Based on all his life’s experiences, Alt shared with students five points that he hopes they can use in their own lives.
First and foremost, just be yourself. Don’t be someone you think someone else wants you to be.
—Gary Alt , Wildlife Leadership Academy curriculum coordinator
“First and foremost, just be yourself,” Alt said. “Don’t be someone you think someone else wants you to be. Second, be honest. Always be honest. Third, stand up for what you believe in. Fourth, be humble, not arrogant. And finally, when you feel uncomfortable, don’t take the easy path to get away. Push ahead.”
Students were given the opportunity to ask questions to Alt, both on his educational and professional experiences. Many students remained after the presentation time had concluded to have some personal one-on-one time with Alt as well.
He also has done so many things in his life, it shows these students that it is possible, you can do all these things if you really put your mind to it.
—Elizabeth Bruner , Penn State DuBois wildlife technology student
“Personally, Gary is one of my heroes,” Bruner said when sharing why she felt it was important to have Alt come to campus to speak to students. “I look up to him so much. He has done so many magnificent things in his life and I thought it was important for students to hear from another DuBois student who went through the same thing that they are now. He also has done so many things in his life, it shows these students that it is possible, you can do all these things if you really put your mind to it.”
Alt has presented over 1,500 lectures to over 300,000 people during his career. He has been honored in Time Magazine as a Conservation Innovator and his work has been published in a variety of professional journals and featured in People Magazine, National Geographic World, Sports Illustrated, Readers Digest, National Wildlife, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Post and hundreds of other magazines and newspapers. Alt’s work has also been given national television coverage by Good Morning America, CBS Sunday Morning News, National Geographic Explorer and more.