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Wilderness Fellow and Dayen Program

Program Overview

The Wilderness Fellow and Dayen Program provides support to the land management agencies who manage wilderness. It employs highly educated and trained young professionals and places them with different forests, parks and field offices across the country:

1.  Increase capacity where necessary for wilderness managers to accomplish complex, professional, wilderness tasks.

2.  Address the backlog of wilderness stewardship work across the National Wilderness Preservation System.

3.  Prime the next generation of wilderness professionals and connect them to people and places of work.

Job Title

The “Dayen” position was created by SWS to bring individuals experienced in natural resources to federal agencies. The job title itself is derived from the German word “doyen” meaning an expert in a particular field. There are other linguistic examples that relate to this job title. In Islam, the name Dayan (sometimes spelled Dayyan) means great judge or arbiter. The surname Dayan in Hebrew is a type of religious judge and a position with social prestige. In the Urdu language, the word dayan translates to “correct.” These semantic nuances all feed back to the essence of the job title- someone who is expert and authority in their work.


The position of a Fellow is similar to a Dayen but employees with this role likely have less experience than those at the Dayen level. Fellow positions tend to be more field-based while the Dayen positions are more office-based. The fellow positions are targeted at current students who are looking for shorter term work to take on in the summer months, while the Dayen role is reserved for projects lasting at least a year. Many Fellows move into Dayen positions when their projects end.


Fellows and Dayens work on all manner of wilderness stewardship and management issues, from wilderness character, to outfitter and guide permitting, to minimum requirements analysis, and everything in between. Fellows and Dayens are hired to match agency needs, and are trained extensively in the subject matter they will be working with. To host a Fellow or Dayen, contact Heather MacSlarrow at

What Fellows and Dayens say about the program
Forest Road

Jessica Zehr

During this fellowship, I’ve often reflected on the value of these places for those who are there and those who are not; I have been both.


Ellen Ray

It feels remarkable to find a place on this planet to love so deeply in such a short amount of time. I am reminded of the importance behind human connection with the landscape. If others fall in love with this landscape, perhaps they will be inspired to protect it, too

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Noah Campbell

Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming to be researching an area as storied and revered as the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, but it’s also been an exciting and rewarding challenge.

What previous Fellows and Dayens are doing now

Forest Road
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Shannon Wesstrom

(2022 Fellow)

Environmental Planner

Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest

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Jacob Smith

(2020 Fellow)


Environmental Education Specialist

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources


Alyssa Thomas

(2019 Fellow)

Social Science Analyst

Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station

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