Stories from the Field

Staff Spotlight: Jen Laughton

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Jen Laughton poses in the Grand Canyon

If you were to ask any NatureBridge employee what some of their favorite things about working with our organization are, you’d undoubtedly hear about the kids, the programs, and the impact we make daily. But without fail, the most common response to that question is “the people.” Anyone who’s spent even an afternoon with a group of NatureBridge employees leaves with a brand new group of friends and a ton of laughs and stories. This all rings true for our Director of Development Operations, Jen Laughton.

I have met some of the kindest, most empathetic, hard-working people at this job. Many have turned into dear friends that are still in my life, even if they no longer work for NatureBridge. The fact that I get to see them via video all the time and that my job revolves around working with these amazing people makes it not feel like a job at all, but more like a group of family and friends working toward putting good things out into the world.

In July, Jen (she/her) will celebrate her sixth year with NatureBridge. She worked the majority of her years in our San Francisco office until the pandemic hit and she made a major life change by moving to San Diego, where she now works remotely, occasionally traveling to one of our four national park campuses for events. In the last six years, she’s moved through several different positions, and that adaptability and breadth of knowledge serves her well in her recent promotion. 

“Every day is usually different for me—which I enjoy! Some days are full of meetings; some days I hunker down working on a report or on data analysis in spreadsheets. A lot of my job requires flexibility to act on things that pop up—suddenly I might receive an email from a board member asking questions and I’ll need to set aside my other tasks to get back to them promptly. Usually, I am in constant communication with my teammates since much of our jobs are intertwined with each other.”

Jen and Annie on a hike in Yosemite
Jen Laughton and NatureBridge Creative Director Annie Schuler on a hike in Yosemite National Park

Jen’s relationship with nature has been a life-long courtship. She wasn’t exposed to hiking, camping, or national parks as a kid, but found fulfillment soaking up the sunshine in her backyard. Growing up in Santa Barbara, CA, with the beach just a few miles away, Jen developed a connection with her surroundings.

“For me, literally just being outside anywhere makes me happy—feeling the air, feeling the ground, and hearing birds and trees. Now that I am older and have had more opportunities to explore, it just makes me excited to keep adventuring and keep finding new landscapes and plants and trees that spark something in me. I err on the side of introversion, and I feel like nature gives me that calming, safe space, without judgment, where it’s ok if I just sit and think.” 

It’s without a doubt that Jen plays a huge role in maintaining our culture of kindness, curiosity and enthusiasm. 
“I think NatureBridge does draw in very special people, and I feel incredibly lucky that I get to be part of this group.” 

The feeling is mutual, Jen! 

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