January 27, 2015
“When you’re a college kid, you have a dream of what would make you the happiest. And you’re aware that you might not ever get that exact dream job. But I feel like, at this point, I’m there.”
These are the words of two-time B&E graduate Caitlin Henning, finance and operations manager of Global Conservation Initiatives at The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that strives to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.
Henning earned her MBA and MS in Finance degrees from B&E in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
“I always had a special place in my heart for WVU. I met a lot of different types of people from a variety of backgrounds at WVU. That helped me so much (in the workforce) because I had the ability to work with and communicate with many types of personalities,” she said.
Henning was raised in Elkins, W.Va., near Canaan Valley. That region’s natural beauty is where her passion for conservation began.
“It’s a little hard not to take (the scenery) for granted when you grow up there. You don’t realize that not every place looks like that. But areas like that aren’t necessarily protected, even in West Virginia,” Henning explained. “I gradually became very interested in the preservation of natural beauty and the responsible management of consuming natural resources.”
Upon graduation, she took her skill set to the D.C. metro area and worked for the U.S. Department of Treasury. There, she held an external, client-facing role that included event planning and outreach to other federal agencies. Then, she moved on to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where she worked on research and development contracts for medical research. She enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite the dream job that The Nature Conservancy provides.
“I was happy, but I decided it was time to take the job I always thought I wanted,” Henning recalled. “Truth be told, as I was pursuing my finance degree, I always knew I wanted to pursue a nontraditional path. That became very clear to me during my time at WVU. It helped me realize what I really wanted.”
She joined The Nature Conservancy in July 2014 and has already been a part of several fulfilling projects. Her department focuses on major global challenges related to resource conservation.
“We’re looking at sustainable management of agriculture and fisheries, as well as direct land conservation. One of our recent partnerships is specifically working toward sustainable livestock management in Kenya. By creating a better system of raising animals, we’re also creating a better livelihood for the people who live there,” Henning explained. “The area also happens to be a major corridor for rhinoceros and elephant populations, so we’re also assisting in the conservation of these important wildlife species. A lot of times, our programs have multiple positive impacts.”
Henning’s specific job function is what makes all of that possible. In any given day, she may be analyzing spending reports to ensure the organization is staying on budget. She may be forecasting ahead or preparing financial reports for major donors. Other days, she may be focused on HR-related activities based on the group’s needs.
“I feel like we’re supporting a small business, in a way. But with a social goal,” she said.
When Henning considers her years in graduate school, a few things really stand out, including the study abroad opportunities and relationships with faculty.
“I had a few professors who really took the time to help shape the person I was at that time. Dr. (Paul) Speaker was one of them, and Professor (Frank) DeGeorge was another. There were definitely some stressful times and I took advantage of their level of engagement with us,” she recalled.
Henning knows that perhaps a majority of those who pursue graduate business degrees are interested in jobs in banking, investments or consulting industries. But her advice to current students and job seekers is to keep their options open.
“Pursue a role that makes you excited to go to work every day. It makes a huge difference in the way you feel each day. If that’s consulting or investments, I recommend that. But if those don’t feel entirely right, there are other options,” she said. “And use your network. A job may come from a conversation that you have, rather than a resume you submit.”
Outside of work, Henning pursues interests such as hiking, biking, running and international travel.