Name: Joan (Van Grinsven) Doss
Undergraduate major: Environmental Studies
Why did you choose to major in Environmental Studies?
I chose the Environmental Studies program because of the multidisciplinary approach to environmental education. I knew that with the wide variety of courses I had the opportunity of taking, that I would discover a distinct career path that would combine my passions for sustainability and civic engagement.
What activities, courses, and groups were you involved in on campus did you find most beneficial when applying for jobs/school? What skills were taught that got you to where you are today?
I believe that my leadership roles on the executive boards of Sustainability Alliance and Alpha Kappa Sigma Sorority helped employers recognize my work ethic, leadership, and organizational skills. I also enrolled in the Intro to GIS course, and have since used that knowledge on a daily basis at my job working in a county government setting.
What was your undergraduate internship experience?
I was the summer animal care and education intern for the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center the summer leading into my senior year at CSB/SJU. Up until this point in my education I simply had no idea what I wanted to accomplish after college. I accepted this internship because I knew I would achieve one of two outcomes: I would fall in love with education or I would discover a career path that was not a good fit while learning some valuable lessons about my strengths or weaknesses. It ended up being the latter. While I loved my summer at Wolf Ridge and absolutely adored caring for the raptors and other animals at the site, I quickly learned that not everyone can be a great educator, and that once I got back to campus I would really have to push myself to figure out my future career. The following semester I enrolled in Intro to GIS, which quickly became one of my favorite courses in college.
What did you do immediately after graduation?
I spent a year serving with the Minnesota GreenCorps after graduation. During that year, I worked with the City of Lake Crystal focusing on energy conservation projects and education. While working with Lake Crystal, I became more aware of the intricacies of local government in addition to strategies on how to promote positive change through education. Throughout the year I was able to engage with over 600 residents face-to-face, and each household through a monthly educational newsletter that was included with their electric bill. The estimated impacts of all of my programs and projects included savings of roughly 350,000 kwh of electricity, 15,000 therms of natural gas, and 1,000,000 gallons of water.
If it differs, what are you currently doing and how did your career path lead you there?
After my year with the Minnesota GreenCorps, I was employed by the Brown County Planning & Zoning and Emergency Management departments. I have since moved to South Dakota, and am currently the Planner for Lincoln County Planning and Zoning where I assist in permitting, ordinance development, and future land use planning.
What advice do you have for current students when it comes to being successful on campus and in life after college?
My advice to students is to take risks, and to not be afraid of failure. Whether it is enrolling in a class you know you will struggle with or applying for an internship that focuses on skills and knowledge you have yet to gain, the worst that can happen is you discover a path that wasn't meant for you. If you fail, you pick yourself back up, and try something new until you find your own path.
Additional advice and comments:
Lastly, I urge students and recent graduates to take the leap to reach out to past alumni and to sign up for the alumni mentoring program after college. The wealth of knowledge and expertise that comes with community connections is a priceless resource.