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Are you impassioned about the environment? If so you may relate with this professor and environmental program developer. A life-threatening illness helped her find clarity and focus and she now thrives by maintaining a healthy lifestyle while working to care for the environment, about which she cares deeply.

Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?

A: I am an Environmental Program Developer and College Professor of environmentally specific technology as well as generalized academic programs. When I was 21 years old and making many changes in my life, I went to college in order to become an English professor and writer. One of the first courses I took was in physical and cultural geography (to get this notoriously tough course out of the way.) I fell in love with planet earth and all of its intricacies early on. No matter who said what, I was hooked and there was no changing my mind. One English professor asked me if I was going to wear a pith helmet and march through the wilds of Africa! No matter! I walked a straight and narrow path of this new found love and eventually received my advanced degrees in environmental geology and geography. Three adjectives that describe me are tenacious, compassionate and honest.

Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?

A: I am a Caucasian woman who at first discovered a degree of discrimination. I was entering a field of study that was predominately male in nature. I ignored comments and spent my time and energy following my dream. It worked! Soon, all those who did not matter ignored me.

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A: I have created several environmental technology programs where none existed before. I have taught these programs and taken them through various educational approval processes, worked to find employment for my graduates, and counseled them in their efforts. I worked in a private school of technology and have taught in several colleges. Though I have worked on various ‘paying’ committees, my heart was always in teaching where I might practically advance a true understanding of the earth and its needs.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

A: I rate my job satisfaction as a 10. I dearly love the jobs that I have done and currently do. I also write books on environmental issues. There is nothing more that I can do to make the job better, but I am certain it will evolve as my work continues.

Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

A: My heart and soul are involved in my job. Loving the earth and finding such great ways to express that love is everything in life to me. As I look back on my own educational experience, I see that this was always meant to be my path. I first went to college to study English and writing, which then evolved into earth studies and several wonderful jobs that focused specifically on environmental work, and I am now writing as well, and I feel that I have been able to capture it all!

Q: Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

A: The unique thing concerning my situation is that I was critically ill and close to death when I was 28 years old. I believe as I laid in a coma for 2 months, internal thoughts of my son and my extreme need to do the teaching that I was doing saved my life. I was teaching to help save the planet and planet earth and my environmental work saved me!

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A: As I said, I got started through the joy that I felt as I learned about all of the intricacies of the people’s relationship with their environment. I really would not change anything, because if I did, I would not be the same person that I am today, and I rather like what I am doing and who I am.

Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?

A: I taught Environmental Issues in a men’s prison for a year. The lesson that I learned there was that I had to give up control in order to gain control. After the first exam that I gave to 35 prisoners, they expressed a great deal of unhappiness concerning the results i.e., their grades. Many stood up and expressed this displeasure and I just listened, not really knowing what to do with 15 or so very disturbed prisoners. One left the room, slamming the door. In moments one student stood up and told the group that what grade they each received was their responsibility. Soon the fellow came back to class and apologized. I offered them a re-take on the exam and the class was a much better class for the experience. I had to give up control, let it all ‘play out’ in order to gain the control that I needed in that prison setting.

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A: I learned that most people want others to care.

Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

A: Falling in the river when doing water analysis.

Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

A: I go to work every day because I love the earth and the people who inhabit it. I feel really good and very proud of myself and the work that I do when I deliver an environmental lecture and the students seem to be in awe of what they are learning. I feel proud of myself for good reviews written about my books. I feel as though I am possibly making a real difference in people’s lives and in how they interact with the planet.

Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you want to just quit?

A: The greatest challenge that I have is to continue to bring a sense of newness to my lectures each term, so I continue to read, study and learn updated information. Probably the thing that makes me most want to quit are the limited number of hours in the day. I am also devoted to doing practical wildlife work. When all is said and done, I could use a 30 hour day.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

A: My job is only stressful when I do not feel well. I make every effort since my ‘near-death’ experience to care for myself. I try to eat healthy and exercise a little. Most importantly, I meditate daily in order to bring greater balance to my life.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A: Teaching salaries range from $ 40,000 to $80,000/year. I believe I am paid enough. The job pays me in many other ways too, and I am always happy to live within my means.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A: There are nice vacation breaks for holidays and between terms. Once in a while, I take a summer away from work to travel. It is a great way to live!

Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

A: Anyone studying the environment will take classes in almost everything: climate and weather, physical and cultural geography, geology, chemistry, biology, biochemistry, oceanography, zoology and the list goes on. The more a person truly understands his environment, the world around him, and how it operates, the better job that person will get.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A: If you love the world, go for it!

Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

A: The same thing that I am doing now with a new twist on it all. Throw in a surprise and I’ll be thrilled!