I grew up in rural southeastern Wisconsin near the Kettle Moraine State Forest, which provided the perfect opportunity for a young kid to explore. I spent hours meandering through the beautiful mountain bike and hiking trails enjoying the glacial hills, kettles, and lakes. My weekends as a kid consisted of trail running, mountain biking, camping, ATVing, and swimming in the forest that I saw as my own backyard. Though I loved exploring my forest paradise, I also felt a need to explore the world and have new experiences.
While studying Anthropology and French at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I studied abroad in Senegal, West Africa, which started my intrigue into rural development in West African nations. After graduating, I started a Masters in Development Studies at the University of London-SOAS and focused on the many developmental issues surrounding rural labor markets. This included focusing on interactions people have with their lands while trying to make a living off of those lands, whether good or bad.
After five years of studying, I worked for a short while as an intern for a United Nations agency and then started my work as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The Peace Corps placed me in French-speaking Togo, West Africa as a Community Health Specialist. While in Togo, I felt free again. I ran many miles each morning on the rugged dirt roads. I did projects that my partners found useful and spent my free time exploring the little mountains surrounding my new home.
My new friends shared stories with me and asked me questions about the United States. I cooked new foods on open fires. I helped people start their own gardens and learned where wild mushrooms could be found. We talked about nutrition and I worked on capacity building at the local health center. Peace Corps helped me become better at project management, but more importantly helped me grow as a person.
After the challenging and rewarding Peace Corps experience, I got a job with an International NGO in Washington DC, where I worked as a Project Coordinator. The NGO ran large projects funded primarily through USAID. I managed our relationships with field staff, drafted contracts with partners, carried out audit ready procurements, finalized quarterly reports, realigned and tracked our budgets, and helped with new business and proposal development. The worked intrigued me, but I found myself feeling trapped in a city full of ambitious workaholics that never found time to step out into the forests and breathe. Washington DC suffocated me.
I left Washington DC and started working as a Wildland Firefighter in Whitehall, MT for the U.S. Forest Service. Working in our National Forests brought so much joy to my life. I dug line on fires and hiked many miles each day working 16 hour days. The chainsaw became my closest companion on our local project where we sawed for eight hours daily when not on a fire. I loved sleeping under stars in the wilderness and knew that I needed to work near and for our forests in the future.
Firefighting led me to the National Forest Foundation. As Grants and Contracts Coordinator for the NFF, I combine all the skills learned throughout my varied career. I get to work for our forests and use my skills in managing contracts and procurements while living in one of the most beautiful places in our country.
When I’m not at work you will find me exploring our forests and mountains by boat, foot, paddleboard, snowboard, and skis. I also love to knit, spin my own yarn, and cook tasty food.