I manage public policy for Ford Motor Co. as part of the Government Relations team. Meaning, I help track federal, state and local policy, mainly around the environment and infrastructure, that can impact the company and work to define our position.
During my childhood, I had many reasons to love the outdoors. My dad was a hunter and fisherman, and we frequently took family camping trips throughout Michigan, so naturally, that all fueled my love of the environment. That passion continued to blossom in high school where I joined a group called SEA, Students for Environmental Awareness. In that, we helped to arrange environment-related volunteer activities for our fellow students.
However, my first introduction to forestry didn’t occur until I worked in the old greenhouse on MSU’s north campus. Taking care of the plants and giving school tours there allowed me to interact with lots of fellow MSU students in environmental-related fields. It was those interactions with students who shared the same passions as me that helped me hone in on my own passion for urban forestry, by fostering my love of the forest and connecting it to my love of cities.
It wasn’t until the end of my freshman year that I chose forestry as my major, but joining the forestry program brought with it some unforgettable memories I now cherish when looking back at my time at MSU. Jamboree was always fun every year, as was the forestry overseas study program in Brazil, where we studied the various forest ecosystems along the Atlantic Coastal Rainforest.
Upon graduation, I worked for an urban forestry company diagnosing problems on landscapes, doing community gypsy moth surveys and tree inventories for cities. I transitioned to the Michigan Department of Agriculture when the Emerald Ash Borer landed in Southeast Michigan, and I helped manage the program. This job married my love of forestry with public policy, and I returned to school for my master’s in public policy.
Thereafter, I’ve had the honor and privilege of my career to work for the Executive Office of Governor Rick Snyder, starting as the Special Advisor on the Environment and moving to Director of Policy. Working for a Governor fueled my love for public service, as I was able to work with many state departments, and be a part of so many projects that directly improved people’s lives.
As of today, I manage public policy for Ford Motor Co. as part of the Government Relations team, and I love it! Basically what that means is I help track federal, state and local policy, mainly around the environment and infrastructure, that can impact the company and work to define our position. I love to work on big, complex policy issues – like greenhouse gas reduction and transitioning to electrification. I also enjoy learning about the issues from our subject matter experts, making connections on ideas between teams, and organizing structures to implement solutions. I’m a process person, and sometimes big policies and ideas can take years to come to fruition, but when they do, it’s incredibly rewarding to see them being implemented and impacting people in everyday life.
That being said, I adore my job at Ford. My great-grandfather worked for Ford of Canada, starting in 1912, and I joined 107 years later almost to the day. When I tell people I work for Ford, many people tell me about their family connection to the company, which I love because it truly is a family company. I was nervous to leave the public sector for a private corporation, but I couldn’t have landed in a better place. Ford Motor Co. is a values-based company that deeply cares about their employees, the environment, and prioritizes the importance of policy.
For me, working in government policy means the privilege of being able to affect change for the common good. Whether that’s for people driving Ford vehicles, or trying to save ash trees, or protecting the Great Lakes from invasive carp. The goal is the same: try to tackle complex public policy challenges.
My advice to anyone considering forestry: Follow your passion. Passion pays off. Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine where you’ll be when you’re first beginning. When I declared forestry as my major, my family, who grew up in the suburbs of Southeast Michigan, asked me if I was going to be Smokey the Bear. They had a limited view of the forestry world, and I had only a glimpse, but I strongly felt that this is the direction I wanted to go. And it led me to so many places I couldn’t have ever dreamed of from combating an invasive insect for the state, to managing stormwater, the Soo Locks, and now environment and transportation policy for one of the world’s largest automakers. MSU Forestry has been integral in shaping my love of Michigan’s natural resources and my career in environmental policy.