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Jennifer Ferenstein '88 is 2013 Reed College Commencement Speaker

Jennifer Ferenstein ’88 will address the 2013 graduating class at Reed College’s 99th commencement exercise on Monday, May 20. Ferenstein is an organizer for The Wilderness Society where she works with ranchers, business owners, community leaders, tribal members, and other locals to protect the cultural and natural environment of Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front.

Ferenstein has championed environmental causes throughout her career, combining her education in environmental studies and biology with political savvy and organizing skills to affect environmental policy on both national and local levels. She has worked in a variety of roles, including tracking and studying golden eagles, working as the Montana state auditor’s advisor on environmental issues, and teaching conservation through hands-on activities such as working to pass environmental-protection laws. In 2001, Ferenstein became the Sierra Club’s youngest woman president since the club’s founding in 1892. She served two terms.

Ferenstein grew up in Berkeley, California, but it was time spent at her grandparents’ ranch in central Oregon’s Twickenham Valley that sparked her appreciation of the outdoors. After graduating from Reed, her visits to the ranch with fellow alumni helped turn her intellectual curiosities into a lifelong passion. The ranch, Ferenstein wrote in an essay for Thinking Reed, is where it began to sink in that all living organisms and systems are connected, and she began questioning how our society determines the value of what is “worth” protecting in nature.

“There are myriad environmental issues, but one key challenge: to acknowledge that the planet’s health depends upon the active participation of each of us. Apathy is the enemy,” Ferenstein wrote while she was Sierra Club president.

Jennifer Ferenstein has a Bachelor of Arts from Reed College in Oregon and a Master of Science in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana. She lives in Missoula with her husband and son and a number of mammals, reptiles, and birds.