Guest blog post by Julianne Kingery, Economic Development Specialist, U.S. Economic Development Administration
My name is Julianne Kingery and I am an Economic Development Specialist at the Commerce Department's U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Denver Regional Office. Our office covers a ten-state region that includes Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. I have worked with EDA for a year and a half, first as an Economic Development Assistant and now as an Economic Development Specialist. In these roles, I have processed disaster recovery grant applications, assisted partners in the administration of grants, identified innovative strategies for improving resiliency in our region, and supported my teammates in a variety of other EDA programs.
During my time working on disaster recovery, I had the opportunity to support two FEMA mission assignments (in Missouri and Nebraska) in response to the catastrophic flooding across the Midwest that began in March 2019. These two mission assignments opened my eyes to the world of disaster recovery as seen through the lens of a federal agency and, since that time, it has become a passion of mine that I have been able to weave throughout my work at EDA.
I was raised by two teachers in the relatively small town of Castle Rock, Colorado, just south of Denver. As a Colorado native, I was lucky to grow up with summers filled with camping, swimming pools, and lots of family time. My winters consisted of snowboarding, sledding, and as much of my mom’s hot chocolate as possible – it’s still one of my favorite things.
After 18 years of Colorado snow, I traded in my snow boots for sandals and attended Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida where I pursued a double degree in French Language and International Relations/Global Affairs. It was there that I was introduced to my first Peace Corps Recruiter and began my federal service career.
In 2014, I graduated from college and packed my bags for a three-year Peace Corps service assignment in rural Ethiopia. I served as a high school teacher and volunteer leader During my time in Ethiopia, I became acutely aware of some of the challenges faced by women in many developing countries. Although I grew up knowing that women worldwide face inequality in a multitude of ways, seeing these inequities first-hand had a profound effect on me. In an extremely patriarchal community in the Southern Region of Ethiopia, I was blessed to befriend strong women in business, education, and in the community. Their numbers were few, but they were beacons to women and girls in my community. My most sincere hope is that I was not only an English teacher to my students and co-workers, but rather I was another example of a woman who was willing to question the way things are, brave enough to be different, and strong enough to fight for myself.
My experiences in the Peace Corps and other travel abroad have given me an appreciation of the strong women in my life, particularly in the workplace. Whether I am in an office setting, at a conference, or at a meeting with partners and customers, I look around to see where the women are. I am a firm believer in leading by example, so instead of giving advice to the girls who may be interested in STEM, engineering, government work, or any career at all, I would give advice to the women who are already in those positions: Remember, if they can see you, they can be you; so be proud of the work you do and be an inspiration for those who might be interested in following a similar career path.
One of my favorite quotes is from a collection of poems called, The Beautiful Truth by Mark Anthony.
“…and one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.”
It reminds me of all the women who raised me--the teachers, the neighbors, the friends, the co-workers, and the women in my family and how thankful I am that they encouraged me to be strong and fierce and to follow my passions.
Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce women during Women's History Month.