A Conversation with Jennifer Hanna – Daniella Castillo Vásquez

This summer, I had the great honor of being mentored by Jennifer Hanna at the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation (OCLP). Before making my way back home, I wanted to share a few things that I learned about her and from her during my twelve weeks at the OCLP.

Jennifer is a Historical Landscape Architect and has worked with the National Park Service for approximately ten years, four of which have been with the Olmsted Center. When I asked her what she was most inspired by in regards to her work with the NPS, she responded that what inspires her the most is the places and people she works with, and the responsibility to care for these places that often reveal incredible stories through simple everyday things like meadows, roads, barns, trees, and fenceposts. This was also what she claimed made her the proudest, and shared: ” I’m proud of my efforts to share the stories of the land’s past through cultural landscape reports and our internship program here at the Olmsted Center.”

I was very interested in hearing her advice for young people interested in pursuing a career at the National Park Service. She was happy to share with me some encouraging words: “Talk to as many people as you can in the field about their own career paths – especially how they navigated transitions – getting out of school, going back to school, family obligations, new positions, changing careers, moving. Knowing their paths can help you with yours. There are so many interesting opportunities in cultural resources, both inside and outside of the National Park Service, and with the climate crisis affecting everything we do, it is an important time to join in the effort to preserve the future of our past.”

Jennifer Hanna, Dalia Dorta, and myself at FRLA

Finally, I asked her what have been some of the most memorable moments during her time at the NPS. She mentioned many, such as wading through a marsh with archaeologists searching for physical evidence of the community of Harriet Tubman in the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park; standing on the dome of the Jefferson Memorial to record the view; producing a video on Women’s Rights National Historical Park; and as an NPS intern herself, hiking the backcountry trails in Yosemite to inventory historic fire control cabins.

Working with Jennifer was incredibly exciting, it showed me what a career path with the NPS could look like, but also how to carry myself professionally with kindness, and openness to learn from others. In her own words: “Every day I learn something new. That’s the best part of the job.”

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