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How Did Two Knox Creative Writing Majors Wind Up Working in the Environmental Field?

Kaytie Longo '06 works for a global environmental consulting firm, Arcadis, as a project manager in Massachusetts and was excited to discover that Jessica Berends '07 works for the same company, but in New York City. “Actually, Jess should get credit for the discovery as she figured it out by seeing me on the company website in a disco outfit for Halloween,” says Longo. “We got together in NYC and had a fantastic time catching up on all that has happened since college and laughing about how two creative writing majors ended up working in an environmental field.”

What have you been doing since graduating from Knox? What do you do professionally? 

Kaytie: My first job was in marketing for a non-profit,  and, next, I became a registrar for a tech company. For the last 10 years, I have been working for Arcadis. I started there as an administrative assistant, and within a few years, I began providing financial support, culminating in my current role as a certified project manager. Right now my focus is on compliance, due diligence, and environmental permitting projects for a variety of global clients.

Jessica: I work in project administration/controls in the resilience sector for a global consulting firm in New York City. Though I didn’t study environmental sciences or even math at Knox, the humanities and liberal arts education trained me in critical thinking. This is the skill I use most in my role. It is one of the greatest gifts Knox gives students, no matter what field they pursue. Students are inundated with seemingly unconnected disciplines, and they learn to connect them. I learned how to analyze. Any Knox student can excel in just about any field, even a completely new one, because the analytic base is there.

How did you end up working in an environmental field? Did you anticipate this when studying at Knox?

Kaytie: I could not have anticipated I'd end up working for an environmental company. However, I had a friend who was an environmental scientist who worked for Arcadis and strongly urged me to apply for a job there knowing that, even without a science background, my work ethic was just what they needed.

Jessica: When I got to New York, I started working in administration for my current company and after two years was offered a new position in my current role. Though  I didn’t necessarily have the technical knowledge for the environmental industry, my supervisor believed in my capabilities and offered to train me for the new position. I never imagined I’d be working in financial project management, and I didn’t even know what that was, though I had prior financial experience. In this position, I found something that was a combination of the different roles and experiences that I had done before—and this is a pretty joyful discovery, to find the niche you enjoy and that you’re talented at.  It had all been a surprise and was offered to me for doing my previous job well.

Why is Knox important to you? 

Kaytie: Knox was a great part of my life where I met wonderful people and learned new ways to think and analyze information. I wish in my early years I had taken a wider range of classes instead of focusing on history/creative writing (which I love and majored in, but that meant I didn't learn that I loved other things, like accounting and business). Knox is the place where I began to learn what I value, how to prioritize, and how, as Stephen Colbert said at graduation, to ‘say yes’ to life’s opportunities.

Jessica: Knox reinforced my passion for social change. I didn’t end up graduating from Knox—I left in the middle of my senior year to pursue a personal calling to service that my time at Knox helped inspire. I graduated from another university, but I have always thought of Knox as my home. For the past 10 years, I’ve been involved with an international movement called the Focolare Movement that works to promote unity through dialogue, and it has brought me to different places and countries (Italy, Switzerland, New York, Atlanta.) One of my biggest joys has been to work as a youth mentor for pre-teens and teens and to accompany them in their big decisions in life.

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Printed on Wednesday, March 29, 2023