In a role reversal, Jennifer Campbell Young ’91 sits at the head of the class during a forum in the Center for Science & Business, fielding a question from her former professor, Craig Watson, whom she credits for getting her started as a writer during her days as a Monmouth student.
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The growth that started in a creative writing class at
Monmouth College has led to a fulfilling career for Jennifer Campbell Young, a
1991 graduate who returned to campus last month to encourage students about
opportunities in environmental consulting.
Some of Young’s career-defining projects have included
working with a development project in Ventura County, Calif., where she managed
empirically designed studies and population monitoring surveys for the federal
candidate and state endangered San Fernando Valley spineflower (SFVS).
Young authored the listing package for SFVS for the state
Fish and Game Commission, which remains the basis for the biology and ecology
provided by the state for that taxon. She also managed the design and
implementation of hydrological and biological monitoring programs developed to
avoid impacts to surface resources on the San Bernadino Forest and adjacent
tribal lands from tunnel construction for the Metropolitan Water District of
Employed by PSOMAS, a mid-size engineering firm in downtown
Los Angeles, Young holds the position of project manager/senior biologist and
serves as an associate.
“I really make my living as a technical writer,” said Young,
who had some of her first memorable experiences with writing in a course taught
by English professor Craig Watson. “You have to tell the story of what the data
is telling you, but write it in a compelling way. The writing is key. You’ve
got to learn to write. I wasn’t good at it when I first started writing at
Monmouth, but I just got better and better at it through the years.”
That academic progress is only one of several elements of
Young’s education that were of interest to Monmouth students. Others included:
• a study abroad experience that enhanced her Monmouth
education, greatly improving her communication skills;
• a love of learning that enabled her to add to her academic
résumé with graduate studies in ecology;
• combining the disciplines of her English major at Monmouth
with her expertise in botany to become a highly successful technical writer on
• her current exploration of the business-science
interactions available in environmental consulting.
As a high school student, Young discovered Monmouth through
the Presbyterian church in her hometown of Duncan, Okla.
“I knew I wanted to attend a four-year, liberal arts
college, and that I wanted to branch out from Duncan,” she said. “I visited
campus and loved it.”
Young intended to major in biology, but got off to a slow
start with an 8 a.m. chemistry class in the fall of her freshman year.
“I wasn’t academically prepared to take that class,”
recalled Young, who continued to stay on the science track until midway through
her sophomore year. “I was struggling, and I remember thinking, ‘Maybe science
isn’t for me.’ Looking back, I just wasn’t the right age for it.”
Outside the classroom, Young was active in her sorority,
Kappa Kappa Gamma, and the college choir. She also participated in an
Associated Colleges of the Midwest off-campus study program in Washington, D.C.
“I fell in love with D.C.,” she said. “I knew that after
graduation, I wanted to live either there or Chicago.”
Chicago won out, and it was there where Young began thinking
about science again.
“I put myself through an exercise,” she said. “I went to the
library, and I asked myself, ‘How do I want to live my life, both
professionally and outside of work?’ I wanted to work in the field, and I
wanted to live in the city. As I answered these big questions about work, I was
drawn toward ecology, so I volunteered at the Lincoln Park Zoo and at a prairie
preserve. The wildlife restoration was fabulous – I was sold.”
Intentionality came into play again, as she studied her
options for graduate work in ecology.
“There were opportunities in the field of restoration
ecology at UW-Madison, and everywhere in California,” she said. “I chose
She received a transfer from her day job at WBBM Radio to
the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles. After laying her groundwork in science with
courses at Cal State-Fullerton, she eventually settled at San Diego State
University, receiving a master’s degree in biology,
Young presented a forum while on campus, seeking to motivate
students about the future in environmental consulting.
“I told them to take a look at this field – that there’s a
place for them in it,” she said.
Environmental science majors at Monmouth have a wide variety
of options. The interdisciplinary major, which features courses from at least
eight different departments, can lead to an environmental policy track, as well
as an environmental science major with a specific focus on biology, chemistry
or physics. Additionally, all participants in the program are required to
complete an independent research project.