All the Right Angles

Alumna Jenna McKnight has always been interested in environmental issues, but the peaks, the pines, and the “impressive collection” of professors at Northern Arizona University inspired her to combine two loves she discovered as a student: journalism and environmental communications. "My interest in the environment was amplified being at NAU and in northern Arizona," McKnight says. "It is a hub of environmental activity."

Building environmental connections

McKnight, a journalism major, anthropology minor, and honors student, worked her fair share of late-night deadlines at the Lumberjack, but she also was inspired to create the university's Society of Environmental Communicators in 1998. The organization continues to thrive, and sponsors activities such as the Earth Day festival, a student task force for NAU Recycles, and an anti-mining campaign. While working for the university’s Ecological Restoration Institute and interning at the Grand Canyon Trust, McKnight also contributed to forestry research and community outreach efforts.

McKnight now serves as the editor-in-chief for Architizer, a news and social networking site for architects, designers, and design enthusiasts. “It’s great to work at a young, energetic company where the possibilities are endless,” she says. McKnight credits Northern Arizona University with fostering the kind of education that allowed a journalism student to also gain valuable experience at the Ecological Restoration Institute. That kind of background propelled McKnight to realize her professional dreams, she says.

"NAU offered great career-building opportunities, and I took advantage of them. I had a very strong portfolio by the time I graduated," she says. "I credit this strong foundation to helping me succeed in my career."

Recognized by her alma mater

As an editor and writer, McKnight focuses much of her attention on green issues in architecture and also contributes to GreenSource, a sister publication that covers sustainable design and construction. McKnight's work hasn't gone unnoticed, earning awards and recognition from a plethora of organizations since her university days. She was honored at the School of Communication's 2009 Associated Press/Robert R. Eunson award ceremony—an award for which a former journalism professor, Lea Parker, nominated her. McKnight says Parker encouraged her to follow her passion.

"She was especially influential, as she inspired me to pursue environmental communication and the founding of the Society of Environmental Communicators," McKnight says. "She got me excited about using my communication skills to help the environment."