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Want to know the kind of courage it takes to get a bachelor's degree? Just ask Jennifer Yeager (BSAC ’08). She left high school early and didn’t know where she would end up. Then, she realized that education was her pathway to something better. And now? She’s the chief financial officer for the Pinchot Institute for Conservation.


“I came out of the foster care system and was on my own at 16,” Jennifer says. “I was a parent and found myself in a bad marriage, with no career. At that point, education represented freedom and independence to me.” If she had a bachelor’s degree, she reasoned, she could better take care of herself and her son. The idea of following the path to higher education was a daunting one for Jennifer. But she knew she owed it not only to herself but to all women, to charge ahead and earn a bachelor’s degree. “I was fortunate to have a lot of very strong female mentors who really encouraged me,” Jennifer recalls. “Now, I’ve found myself in the position of mentor to young women.”


At the Pinchot Institute, Jennifer worked her way from an executive administrative assistant position to where she is now. From handling schedule, she now handles a budget of about $5 million. “We’re a small nonprofit, so I also manage projects and administrative staff, stay on top of the regulatory environment, and work with our fundraising and communications staff and the institute’s president,” she says.


The same determination Jennifer used to get her bachelor’s degree she now applies to her everyday work at the Pinchot Institute. It takes grit to raise funding in today’s current economy. “We used to be able to submit a grant proposal to any foundation,” Jennifer says. “Now we have to be invited to submit. Unless you have a big, well-established name, you just don’t register. We have to work harder to communicate our mission.” Even still, there’s joy in the struggle to succeed. “The programs we execute are often community-based,” she says. “That means a lot to me. I don’t have a conservation background but I have chosen to stay at the institute because I believe so firmly in what we’re doing. And the fact that we are nonpartisan is inspiring. We reach everybody.” And with a triumphant story like that, it’s possible she may reach even more people – men and women alike. She may just inspire you to go out and get a bachelor’s degree.

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