Celia Jackson, 26, is a self-professed “volunteer junkie.” The UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences Master’s International student has just received her Peace Corps assignment to Ghana and could not be more excited and pleased.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Jackson said.
Born in Fairbanks, Jackson grew up in Kirkland, Wash., and earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental policy and planning at Western Washington University in Bellingham. She then served as an Americorps volunteer for the Washington Conservation Corps, working on revegetation of salmon habitat in King County. Part of her job was disaster response and she went to Yazoo County, Miss., to assist with tornado recovery.
After Americorps, Jackson worked two years in spill response for the Washington Department of Ecology.
When she began thinking about graduate school, the University of Alaska Fairbanks was a natural choice because of her grandmother, Vera Alexander’s, history with the university. Alexander is a professor emeritus in biological oceanography and former dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.
“I love my Grandma and wanted to spend time with her,” Jackson said. She has been studying at UAF this year. In the fall she will go into Peace Corps service for two years, then return to Fairbanks to write her thesis.
Jackson’s aunt and uncle met in the Peace Corps in Ecuador so it is not a new concept to her.
“It’s a family tradition,” she said.
Travel is another family trait. Jackson was a Rotary exchange student to Japan for a year in high school. Her family lived in Denmark the following year.
“The idea of doing work abroad appeals to me,” Jackson said. “The Peace Corps is a way of getting out in the world and doing good work.”
In the application process, Jackson said she didn’t care where she was sent, but that she wanted to work in natural resources. “That can be done almost anywhere,” she said. “I wanted them to surprise me. I’m really pleased with my assignment to Ghana. I have heard really good things and there are going to be a lot of opportunities.”
Agriculture will most likely be the focus of her assignment, Jackson said. “I’ll probably work with small farmers on agroforestry and more sustainable farming methods.” She’s been studying Ghana to see what the resource challenges are and is meeting with SNRAS doctoral student Josie Sam, who is from Ghana, to learn more about the country.
“I’m excited to get my feet wet and have knowledge of life in developing countries. I’ll get to talk to people living in that world every day.”
Jackson is a service learning assistant for SNRAS’s OneTree program, helping K-12 students in local schools understand the value of scientific observations in the forest. Her springtime activities in the schools include repeated journaling to track the change of seasons, tapping trees for birch syrup, creating lesson plans to help students understand anatomy and physiology of plants moving out of winter dormancy and into spring flowering and bud burst and summer growth.
Jackson is a volunteer firefighter with Chena Goldstream Fire Department. In her free time she enjoys skiing, camping, hiking, reading and live music.