University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) alumnus, Leia Minch ’13 (journalism), has taken her journalism degree to new heights, as her love for wildlife has led her to the American Bald Eagle Foundation in Haines, Alaska. Minch works hands-on with the raptors, while also using her journalism background handling outreach and education, grant writing and graphic design for the foundation.
While at UO, Minch volunteered more than 1,200 hours at the Cascades Raptor Center in Eugene as an animal-care volunteer, while completing her coursework.
What have you been doing and what’s next?
Since I graduated from the SOJC, I’ve had two internships. My first was with the Center for Biological Diversity as a Mexican gray wolf campaigner. I spent four months in New Mexico traveling and talking with community members about Mexican gray wolves. I encouraged them to sign petitions and contact their senators and United States Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) directors to help protect this animal. I also complied evidence for the center’s formal testimony concerning litigation for the Mexican gray wolf.
While finishing that internship, I received another opportunity at the American Bald Eagle Foundation, where I worked with raptors in Alaska and wildlife in Yukon Territory, Canada. At the end of the internship I was hired on as full-time staff.
What first made you interested in working with raptors?
I first visited the Cascades Raptor Center in 2010 and began volunteering in early 2011. It did not take long for me to fall in love with the birds and I always felt fulfilled working with wildlife.
Could you describe a person and/or experience in the SOJC that shifted the course of your career?
It’s hard to say there was one person or experience that shifted my career. I think it was a course of events and a lot of people who have influenced my current path. I have always loved animals. When I was in high school I began taking journalism classes and soon fell in love with writing, photography and graphic design. I was able to find a way to tie the two passions together by constantly searching for jobs and internships..
Is there an example of how an SOJC faculty member aided you with your career?
There are a few SOJC faculty members who pushed me to be a better writer, investigator and interviewer. Mike Thoele helped me to learn how to ask the right questions in an interview. Knowing how to interview and what questions to ask has allowed me to be more personable with people in education and outreach. Kyu Ho Youm taught me the legalities behind communication law, how to file FOIA requests and why it’s important to keep government agencies transparent. Melissa Hart and Carol Ann Bassett were also instrumental to helping me compose longer works of literary non-fiction. While I haven’t been working on publishing articles since I graduated, I have been writing about my experiences with the hope to publish my writing in the near future.
What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d like to give to current SOJC students?
Volunteer. Most likely everyone applying for your job has a degree. You need real-life application and experience to set you apart. I’ve been employed since I graduated and I think it’s because of my thousands of hours of volunteer experience. I think academic knowledge is formative to thinking, however I’ve noticed employers look at hands-on experience.
What impact do you think your SOJC education has had on your life?
One lesson I’ve learned is that almost everyone in non-profit work wears at least three or four hats. While I may be working with animals and in education and outreach, it has been helpful to have photography, multimedia and writing skills that I learned in the SOJC. I feel confident applying for any job as a communications director or coordinator because of these skills. I think having to talk in-depth with people for interviews has allowed me to become more personable and it’s easier for me to communicate and relate with the public.