Career Change Fuels Jensen’s Lifelong Passion
By Liz Perry, Alumni Guest Blogger
Transitioning to a second career is a big decision that takes dedication, hard work and determination. Many might assume the only reason to take this leap is to leave an unsatisfying career. For Marissa Jensen, however, it was the next big step in living out her passion, and the change ultimately led to her dream career.
In the years after completing her Bachelor of Science at Bellevue University in 2016, Jensen joined Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever and was promoted to the organization’s Education and Outreach Program Manager in September 2019.
Taking on a Career Change Before attending Bellevue University, Jensen had already worked hard to thrive in a career she loved. As a licensed veterinary technician, she worked in emergency animal medicine.
“I always really enjoyed the fast pace of emergency and critical care medicine, forcing you to make important decisions on your feet,” she said. “Although I loved that career, I’d wanted to work in conservation my entire life, to be an advocate for wildlife and the environment.”
Jensen has been drawn to nature since childhood. “I always wanted to save the world,” she said. As a child, this meant things like helping her father and grandfather in their garden, watching monarch butterflies and picking up trash on the side of the road. “It's just been a part of who I am.”
She made the decision to pursue her passion for conservation by going back to school to complete a degree in biology.
Choosing the Right School
A native of Omaha, Neb., Jensen began looking at schools in her area and found that Bellevue University was the only one that would accept the credits from veterinary associate’s degree.
“I worked full time during my studies, and am also a parent, so it meant a lot to be able to utilize credits that I had already worked so hard for,” she said. “I also really enjoyed the smaller classrooms and more intimate experience that Bellevue University provided.”
Jensen also received a scholarship, which she said helped her focus more on her studies and less on finances. “I never doubt the decision I made to attend Bellevue University; it was a tremendous experience.”
Jensen became excited about her decision when she first began her new science classes. “I believe the largest contributor was my professor, Dr. Tyler Moore,” she said. “He provided a lot of support and guidance in and outside the classroom as I worked on my senior thesis, which involved studying aquatic macro invertebrates in a Nebraska creek. Those were some of my favorite memories of my time at Bellevue University.”
Finding the Dream Career
Jobs in the conservation field are very competitive, but Jensen was determined to find the right fit. Armed with her degree, thesis experience and experience volunteering as a Youth Fishing Instructor, she worked a few temporary jobs and continued her veterinary technician work.
When she got a chance to interview for a position with Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever, she impressed the conservation organization. After working for the organization locally, she was promoted to lead conservation efforts on a national level.
Her role includes being the lead advisor for the organization’s National Youth Leadership Council, a group of 20 high school students across the country that are interested in becoming conservation leaders. She also leads the Women on the Wing initiative, which aims to engage and inspire more women conservationists. “It's an absolute dream job, and I'm grateful every day for the opportunities I've had that have helped lead me here,” she said.
Jensen loves the variety the job brings, and working with enthusiastic, committed colleagues, as well as women, youth, landowners, volunteers. “I always wanted to make a difference in regards to wildlife conservation, and I truly feel like I can make that difference every day with my job. That means more to me than I can put into words.”
Inspiring Future Conservationists
Jensen is focused on growing her organization’s programs so they continue to have a larger impact. “It’s important to inspire others to get outdoors and appreciate the natural resources that we have before they're gone,” she said. “The more we can help people garner that appreciation, maybe they will become advocates in return.”
Beyond her work at Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever, Jensen has also spread the message of conservation by writing for Project Upland. The publication also featured Jensen in a cover story about taking up hunting as an adult.
As she moves forward in her career, Jensen is thankful for the steps that got her to where she is. “I know that Bellevue University provided a large role in guiding me to where I am today,” she said.