The first part of your career was very different from where you are today. What were the fun twists and turns of your professional journey?
I went to Washington State University Vancouver for college, and earned a double Bachelors degree in Anthropology and Digital Technology & Culture. Early in my college career, I wanted to become an archaeologist. I took classes in archaeology and completed two archaeology field schools.
One field school was in Mayan archaeology. At this field school, we excavated a Mayan site in the jungles of western Belize. Spider monkeys and howler monkeys watched us in the trees as we worked. The archaeological units were sometimes so deep at the site that when I stood in the pit, the unit walls were above my head!
My second archaeological field school was at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, where we excavated one of the house sites in the Fort Vancouver Village.
One summer in college, I worked for a month on a coffee farm in rural Costa Rica. I’ve always enjoyed gardening and agriculture. Working on the coffee farm allowed me to do something that I enjoyed while travelling and experiencing another country.
How did you go from being an archaeologist to a communications manager?
I began my career in communications as a Park Ranger with the National Park Service. At San Antonio Missions National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service, I was the first ever Visual Information Specialist at the site. I gained experience in special event communications, crisis communications, collaborating with national media, videography, photography, social media and more at the park. At Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, another unit of the National Park Service, I gained experience in event communications, team leadership and strategic planning.
Have you always wanted to work in a creative career?
Yes! I’ve wanted to work in a creative career since I was an elementary student at Minnehaha Elementary in Vancouver Public Schools. As a child, my first dream was to become a creative writer. I would write short stories all day long in the summertime when I was a kid. Fueled by creativity and drive, I entered writing contests held by Reading Rainbow and various public libraries. A couple of awards through these contests motivated me to write whenever I had free time. In second grade, I remember when my elementary school teacher first told me that she thought I would be a good author. Younger me would be very proud to see that I now have a job that involves lots of writing and creativity.
What kind of communications project do you most enjoy executing?
I most enjoy communications projects that allow me to get creative with the ways that we disseminate information to the public. I understand and appreciate a diversity of learning styles. Diversifying communication avenues through writing, photography, videography, and graphic design helps to meet the needs of our audiences by offering information in many different forms. I love to look at an agency’s messages from many different angles in order to creatively communicate ideas.
What’s your best piece of communications advice?
Good communication is more listening than it is speaking. In order to communicate school districts’ messages across the public, we must first listen to the needs of students, schools, and our community. Being keen listeners makes for better communications, mutual respect, and facilitating more valuable connections with the people that we serve.
You are our team’s first member to grow up in Southwest Washington. Is coming back home one reason why you’ve transitioned out of National Parks work?
Definitely. I’m always looking for opportunities to grow and challenge myself. In the National Park Service, however, advancing your career often means moving across the country several times. While I loved my time living in Texas, the Vancouver area is very much home to me. I’m excited to be serving the same Southwest Washington school community that I grew up in!
When guests visit from out of town, where’s one place you HAVE to take them?
I love to hike, so the Columbia River Gorge is a must-see. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. I feel at home in the woods, and getting some exercise in is an extra bonus. In the summertime, I like to swim in the fresh, cold water around the gorge.
You also hike with your dogs, right? How many dogs do you have?
I have three dogs and they’re all rescues from San Antonio, Texas. One is a teacup chihuahua named Luna. She’s only 5 lbs! The next is a mixed mutt named Yogi. He’s an adventurous dog who loves wrestling and hiking. My third dog is a red heeler named Ruby. She loves to swim and is obsessed with playing fetch.
You’ve done a lot of traveling…what have you done on your bucket list? What’s still left to do?
Learning about the world through travel is super important to me. One bucket list item that I’ve checked off the list is visiting Jamaica. The beaches were so beautiful and the food was delicious. Visiting Peru and Thailand are still on my bucket list!
Beekeeping is another bucket list item that I’ve done. I learned beekeeping through Clark College Community and Continuing Education classes.
Beekeeping?! It seems like keeping bees should be some kind of metaphor for communications work. Yes? No?
Did you know that one colony of bees can be made up of 40,000 bees?! We only see a small fraction of these 40,000 bees collecting pollen and buzzing around outside of the hive. The rest of the bees have important behind-the-scenes jobs like caring for baby bees, attending to the queen, and guarding the hive entrance. I think this is a good metaphor for all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into effective communications.