When the Major and Minor Come Together–An Interview with Tara Gnagy

by Leah Knibbe

Tara loves Tolkien. Very much. And National Geographic. She graduated from Taylor in January 2014 with a degree in Professional Writing and a minor in Environmental Science. Does this sound like an odd combo? Well, Tara is a very interesting person.

She once ate eleven hot dogs in one hour while camping–just because she was hungry.

Tara has been able to take both her major and minor at Taylor and pull them together into her current job. She works for a non-profit environmental stewardship program that is part of a larger affiliation called Fort Caswell Baptist Assembly. It’s a retreat and conference center in North Carolina, and she works for an educational program that conducts outdoor teaching for public, private, and home school groups, grades K-12. Her title is “Coastal Educator.” During the off season, she mostly writes new lessons, revamps the interacting displays in their building, re-writes website content, takes care of their aquariums (which is not her favorite), and a whole slew of random things. Her biggest project so far was editing the entire program curriculum. “It’s a HUGE undertaking, but I’m super excited to put my PWR skills to work,” said Tara.

fort caswell

During the spring and fall, which is field trip season for her program, Tara spends almost all of her time outside teaching groups of up to 150 students. Though chaotic at times, Tara wouldn’t trade her experience for anything. “I basically live in paradise,” said Tara. “I get to spend my days on the beach with amazing kids teaching them about the wonders of our natural world. And I’m more tan than I ever was in Indiana. Definitely the job of my dreams.”

I bet you are wondering what her favorite class at Taylor was. Well, it’s your lucky day!

“I actually really loved Regional Geography. Everyone seemed to hate it, but I love maps and geography. So it may be my favorite class (if volleyball and soccer don’t count). Maybe. I had a lot of good classes at Taylor. Oh Taylor, how I miss you.”

But . . . what was the most helpful class?

“Most helpful required PWR class was Editing, hands down. I use those skills a LOT in my job, even as an environmental educator. Overall most helpful class was Kendra Beutler’s Writing for Electronic Media seminar. Learning about blogging, SEO, Twitter, and Facebook is the reason why I got the job I did. I get to use my unique skill set to brainstorm ideas for marketing the non-profit I work for. I LOVE it! Because of that class, I’m now basically the resident social media expert for the whole assembly I work at. The marketing guys have come to me to ask for my opinion. It makes me feel good!”

Tara, who owns a Yoda backpack, has accomplished some pretty hilarious things in her lifetime. Valentine’s Day 2014 was especially memorable. Her friend got an email from her church saying, “Come for a cheesecake open house at the (so and so) nursing home this Valentine’s Day.”

Tara and her friend said “Yes! Cheesecake! Yes! Hanging out with the elderly!” and made fifty valentines for the old folks and brought them when they went to the nursing home.

First, they entered through the wrong door and made their way through a maze until a serious-looking lady asked them if they were looking for someone.

“We’re here for the open house!”

Blank stare.

“Cheesecake open house?”

“We made Valentines!”

She led them into a small room with seven slices of cheesecake.

“All right, help yourself to the cheesecake. We’re currently giving a tour of the place, but we’ll be back if you’d like to be shown around,” the serious-looking woman said.

Tara and her friend were left in silence and confusion.

“We’re not eating the cheesecake with the elderly?” they questioned as they consumed little morsels of guilt. And then it hit them. “Open house. This is supposed to be an open house for potential residents. What should we do? Tell them we’re looking forward to a very early retirement?” They burst out laughing but quickly silenced themselves as the lady returned. They said “no” to the tour, and thought, “We just want to hand out our Valentines and run away from this place in shame.”

Though that may not have been Tara’s proudest moment, she can certainly be proud of where she is now. What prepared her for her job?

“Honestly, I think the communications courses best prepared me for what I wanted to do. But that’s just me (I don’t particularly want to be the author of a book or anything). So the courses that focused on using writing skills in business and the workplace were extremely helpful in getting me ready to face the real world. Also, I appreciate all of the professors who were such sticklers on grammar and proofreading our work. It’s been really helpful in training my eye for grammatical mistakes. My boss really appreciates that! I think PWR at Taylor also did a good job at building up my portfolio. It may not have been a lot of things employers in my field are looking for, but I think it really did help me to stand out and look impressive.”

Tara currently lives on Oak Island off the coast of North Carolina.


Photo from Fort Caswell website. www.fortcaswell.com


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