SUU Blog | T-Bird Nation

Phenix of the Forest: A Student’s Experience in Parks Interpretation

IMG_2291.jpgOriginally from Las Vegas, Phenix Johnson discovered her passion for the outdoors when she came to Southern Utah University in beautiful Cedar City. Growing up in a desert city, Johnson quickly fell in love with the mountains and forests just minutes from Cedar. She embraced the outdoors and learned about explorers of all kinds.

“I wanted to be Indiana Jones, Steve Erwin, and Jane Goodall,” said Johnson.  

When Johnson discovered she could actually fulfill her adventuring dreams and turn those passions into a career, she declared her major in Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism and never looked back.

During her junior year at SUU, Johnson obtained an Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative (IIC) internship working in interpretation with the National Park Service and was able to blog about her experiences in the parks.

Johnson’s internship was located in Cedar Breaks, a national monument right next to Cedar City.  Johnson worked on resource management, trail maintenance, park forms, and interpretation.

Johnson appreciated her experience because she was able to show people what Cedar Breaks had to offer, like the areas Wildflower Festival and other fun facts about the park.

“People will show-up during the Wildflower Festival and there will be wildflowers everywhere that no one is expecting,” Johnson said. “Most people are coming from Bryce Canyon or Zion, which are extremely hot. Then they come to Cedar Breaks and it’s 50 degrees and there are flowers everywhere.”

Johnson said her risk management and leadership courses with Jake Manning, a professor in Outdoor Education, gave her the ability to lead in the outdoors. She also expressed that her public relations courses at SUU gave her an understanding of how to utilize the park's social media, and her theatre courses gave her the confidence to speak to larger groups.IMG_2942.jpg

Surprisingly, Johnson also had the opportunity to take a class at SUU emphasising floral biology, which gave her an outstanding amount of knowledge when explaining the park’s flowers and trees to visitors.

After Johnson’s experience as an interpreter, she was able to take a class on the subject and critique her strengths and weakness while interning in Cedar Breaks.

“Now I know how I could change things, and take actual theories to change my ranger talks,” said Johnson. “I felt that it was a continued part of my education. I feel like I’ve learned just as much at the IIC as I did in a semester at school.”


Reflecting on her major and internship, Johnson said she feels that she has selected the right field for her. Her future hopes are to work at a multitude of sectors from guiding to shop management to rafting.

“Just before I got into the degree there was all this pressure to have your life planned out, but the professors at SUU showed me that they worked in a variety of things,” said Johnson. “It’s really cool that I get to experience as much as I can. I really feel that SUU has pushed my experiential learning and life.”

Learn more about SUU’s Outdoor Recreation Program and IIC Internships.