Influential Women: Emma
You guys, I can’t think of a better person to be kicking off the women inspiring women series. I’ve known Emma since 3rd grade, which means she is my oldest friend. Sure, I had friends before her, but she is the oldest friend I have that I am still close to today.
BUT, the real reason I’m so excited for her to be the first in this blog series is that she is kicking butt when it comes to having an influence on her community. Every time I talk to her I am blown away at the things she is involved in and how passionate she is. She works for a company in Minneapolis that takes teens and people with disabilities on wilderness trips. She firmly believes that incorporating experiences with nature into the lives of these teens can have a huge impact. Which you will read more about in her own words! Then, in her free time, she helps her partner Ethan with the food shelf/non-profit he works for. AND she has big dreams of continuing to work with food shelves in the future.
Emma was actually the first person who came to mind when I thought of women who are impacting their communities. I can’t emphasize enough how passionate this girl is, and how much influence she has on the community right now, and how much I know she will have in the future. I’m SO unbelievably proud to call her a friend, and she inspires me daily to get more involved in my community!
Interview with Emma:
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a fairly typical 23 year old college grad. I come from a home full of Norwegian Lutherans who love to cook, read books, and make music. Somewhere along the lines, I fell in love with the outdoors and now, I spend all my time doing those same things, just over a campfire on the weekends. I love to hike with my pup and my partner, drink craft beer, and people watch in airports. I eat more tacos than the average Jane and work super hard at loving my neighbor.
Describe the job you have right now:
Right now, I am working for an organization called Wilderness Inquiry. After starting here as an intern then spending a summer leading wilderness trips for urban youth and people with disabilities, I landed a full time position in finance. With a degree in sustainability and anthropology, I never dreamed of working in finance. As it turns out, my inner introvert is fascinated by figuring out how to create financial systems that can help our nonprofit serve the greatest number of people with the small amount of money that we have. While its tedious and I loved sterning a canoe full of kiddos down the mighty Mississippi every day, I feel that staying back in the office and figuring out the puzzle of funding these trips is something that I actually do well.
How does your job have an impact on the community around you?
It was easier to feel like I was directly impacting my community as an outdoor educator, but when the donations and the stories roll in during our annual fundraiser, I’m reminded that the data cleanup and the processing of checks actually allows Wilderness Inquiry to do the programming that it does. Because of my small role, we are able to get over 35,000 people paddling on their local waterways each year. I believe that the nature around us is to be shared with all people, so the fact that I’m able to provide people who have disabilities, people who have experienced homelessness, people who don’t have cars to drive to our state and national parks with access to our local waterways and public lands… it feels really good.
Do you think your job is the primary way you influence community? Or are there things you are involved in outside of your job that have a greater impact on the community?
I think my job is the biggest way that I impact the Twin Cities community as a whole. I’m lucky to reach so many people that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with otherwise. I stay busy outside of work too. My partner, Ethan, runs the largest food shelf in the metro and I’m able to spend quite a lot of time there too. We do donation pick-ups on the weekend at local grocery stores and I practice my Spanish as we put away food and chat with others at the community center. The Pillsbury United community has been so welcoming to me and introduced me to people of all cultures and backgrounds, which has been totally delightful. In my remaining free time, I’m stimulating the economy (as Ethan says when I’m spending too many dollars) I’m at a show at a local brewery or listening room with my ladies, chatting with fellow dog lovers at the dog park, or scouting out the best happy hour rooftop talking about everything under the sun (because small talk sucks).
What challenges do you face in relation to your involvement in the community?
I’d say that the biggest challenge that I face in my Twin Cities community is simply my introversion. While I love people and relationships, I sometimes feel defeated when I simply don’t have the energy to be anywhere but home with my pup. There are so many good people out there and sometimes finding opportunities and/or having the time and resources to jump on those opportunities gets a little overwhelming.
What joys do you experience in relation to your involvement in the community?
I find so much joy in being surrounded by people who feel loved and supported by their community. When people are given a voice and others listen, incredible things can happen. Change occurs from the ground up and when communities come together, their voices are heard. I love being a part of that.
What drives you?
I’m driven by many things. I’m driven by my desire to love and learn. I’m driven by the motivated individuals that surround me. I’m driven by the belief that diversity is the key to success and without reflection, prayer, meditation, whatever form that may take, rushed and impractical decisions are made. I believe that change has to be systemic, otherwise the money runs out and people are left in the dust… I’m motivated by change.
What goals do you have in the future?
I have so many goals and some of these goals are practical and tangible and some are visions for the future that will be more difficult to accomplish. I want to go to grad school. I love school. I want to use the skills that I learn there to start my own business. I want to develop my skills as a systems thinker to consult with nonprofits and food shelves around the country to streamline procedures to become the more effective that they can be. When there is not enough money or enough people to provide a necessary service to a community, efficiency is the key to creating a sustainable enterprise. I hope to link nonprofits to best practices and local resources.
I want to raise a family and live in a cabin. I want to eat in Vietnam, Jordan, and Naples. I want to drink wine in Argentina, and paddle on the Nile. I want to backpack through all our public lands, without fearing that they’re going to disappear and I want to join a parade in New Orleans, before the city is underwater. The list is endless…
What do you hope for your legacy to be when it comes to impacting your community?
I hope that the legacy I leave is one of love, inclusion, and tolerance. Without resilient communities, overcoming our differences will be nearly impossible and we are bound to fail. I am relationship oriented and I strive to be a steward of our environment and local ecosystems. I’m going to do the best that I can and hopefully my community is better for it.