We sat down for five minutes with Jenny Baca who serves as a Senior Specialist with our Latin America and Caribbean Portfolio. Here she tells us more about her work, her childhood dreams of the stars, and the joys of getting stronger through weight lifting.
How would you describe your role at EI?
I do multiple things at EI. I focus on USAID’s conservation programming in the Latin America and Caribbean region, supporting learning and evidence efforts, and more recently providing technical assistance through workshop facilitation. When I first started at EI, I focused on supporting Cross-Mission learning on combating conservation crime. I worked with Missions to identify shared knowledge gaps that if addressed would make combating conservation crime programs more effective. Now I produce learning and evidence products for both the Environment Support Services Contract (ESSC) and Measuring Impact II (MI2). This can encompass anything from writing case studies, to conducting research through semi-structured interviews or literature reviews, to consolidating key learnings from program documents into usable formats.
I love qualitative research and talking to people, so one of my favorite parts of work is reaching out to Mission staff to capture lessons learned and to understand key challenges affecting their programs. I’m trained as a political ecologist so I look at how humans’ interactions with their environments are imbued with power relations, which has implications for social identities, social inequalities, environmental change, knowledge about the environment, and whose knowledge counts as valid. I love when I get to bring this lens into my work. It’s helped some of my thinking on conservation crimes and more recently folks have been drawing me in to advise on gender integration in environmental programming, which sits at the intersection of power, people, and place.
What was your dream job growing up?
I had a lot of weird dream jobs. For a while I wanted to be an astronomer. For all our family vacations we went camping and road tripping across the southwestern United States and my parents used to point out the different constellations. One of my earliest memories is getting woken up to see Haley’s Comet on a camping trip in Big Bend. I got pretty obsessed, I had glow in the dark stars all over the ceiling in my bedroom and in high school I asked for a telescope instead of a class ring.
Oh and I wanted to be Indiana Jones.