Faces of the Forest Service

Meet Melissa Jenkins

October 22nd, 2018 at 2:00PM

Melissa and Assistant Director Steve Marshall at the National Building Museum in front of Timber City Panels. Photo by Yassine el Mansouri, courtesy National Building Museum.

Natural Resource Specialist Melissa Jenkins joined the Forest Service in 2012 after graduate school through the Presidential Management Fellows Program. She knew that she wanted to work in the federal government in the natural resources sector in Washington, DC and was considering several different options. After some great conversations with folks at the Forest Service, she knew she had found her home…and the rest is history!

  • What do you do in the Forest Service and what is your favorite part of your job?

My job is to develop markets for CLT, or cross laminated timber, in the U.S. I love my job! The best part about what I do is partnering with very entrepreneurial individuals and organizations to bring mass timber to the U.S. construction market. Our partners are visionaries who are energetic, creative, and savvy, and I am constantly learning from them. We support these partners through joint projects and grants for technology transfer, technical support, materials testing, communication, and education about mass timber. This sector is important because it creates a market for material from overstocked forests, making communities safer by reducing wildfire risk.Developing the market for mass timber in the U.S. also supports rural economic development and contributes to a more sustainable building sector. At the simplest level, it’s a triple win!

Where did you grow up?

Growing up in a small town outside Boston, Massachusetts, my family and I had the best of both worlds – small town and big city. My family and I would venture out to museums and restaurants in Boston, which was always exciting, but we also had the benefits of a small town. I was really active and always on the move to some sort of sports or school activity.

Who or what inspired you growing up?

Melissa at the 2018 Mass Timber Conference in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Steve Marshall.

My parents really inspired me. They both love being outdoors, and both grew up in very rural areas, so working with the land is second nature to them. My parents were constantly out in the yard either working in our vegetable garden, which was very abundant, or working on a new landscaping project to make our home beautiful. Looking back, I learned early if you take care of the land, it can provide for you in many ways: sustenance and beauty.Both these qualities are embodied by the wood-based material I’m working to promote.

What do you like to do for fun on your free time?

Last September my world changed in a wonderful way when I had my daughter, Elena. Prior to her joining our lives, my husband Jeff and I used to love to travel internationally for vacations. Since Elena’s arrival, we have been staying a bit more local, but still exploring new parts of the country and Washington, DC with her. Also, we used to explore new restaurants around DC, but now we really enjoy cooking great meals together on the weekends. In addition, I’m trying to get back into long distance running, from which I’d taken a brief hiatus over the past year.

What is your highest personal and professional achievement?

In terms of achievements, I’m very proud to be involved in bringing mass timber technology to the U.S. market. There aren’t many people that have been exposed to the breadth of information I’ve had the opportunity to see while working in this arena at the Forest Service. From visiting cross-laminated timber (CLT) manufacturing facilities, to talking to architects and engineers while walking through mass timber buildings, to attending the world’s first blast test of CLT and the world’s largest fire test of CLT, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different aspects of this material. I’m really honored to be working with a wonderful community of people in this sector and excited to see where we can take it next.  As for personal achievements, I’m really proud of my daughter Elena, who is growing up to be a wonderful human….and of a marathon I ran back in 2008. It’s been a while, but still proud of that achievement almost a decade ago!

Melissa Jenkins with husband Jeff and daughter Elena at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Jenkins family photos.

How would you like the public to perceive the work we do at the Forest Service?

I want people to know that the Forest Service supports entrepreneurial solutions to natural resource issues. Many people don’t know the Forest Service is engaged in the mass timber sector. This part of the Agency’s work is very different than what we are known for and surprises many.

What are your future career goals?

My path to and in the Forest Service has been a bit organic: I’m open to new opportunities as I go. As I move forward in my career, I want to continually learn through each new experience, with the end goal of making myself a better person and serving the public better each day.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to serve their country as a Forest Service employee?

I received one piece of advice early on in my Forest Service career, and I think it’s very appropriate to pass onto others: If you have a dream of what you want to do in the agency, you can make it happen. It might take time, but you can figure it out and find mentors to support you along the way, so be persistent.