Jenny Trent

Jenny Trent
Major/Job Title:
Waste Reduction Specialist, Iowa Waste Reduction Center, University of Northern Iowa

Jenny Trent

BA Geography, 2005 and MA Geography

Why did you choose to attend UNI? What factors influenced your reason for studying your major?
I chose to attend UNI because it was home to me.  Growing up in the Cedar Valley, I was proud to be from the same community where UNI is located. UNI was small enough to feel at home, but big enough to have a wide variety of majors and minors available to me.  From the beautiful campus to the amazing people who work here, I was smitten from a young age and this has only grown for me.

The reason I chose my major in Geography was really Dennis Dahms, a professor I took an undergraduate course with to meet some academic requirements.  I had no idea I would fall in love with the field, until I ended up in Dennis Dahms’s class.  I always loved science, but Dennis’s introduction to the science of soils grabbed my attention at a deeper level. As a kid, I would dig in my backyard into the dirt, looking for clay. I had no idea what clay was at that time, but my fondness for dirt, mudcakes, and little clay sculptures was met as an adult when I declared my major as Geography and began my studies in the world of Physical Geography with and environmental emphasis and Quaternary soils. 

What do you do in your current position? 
In my current position, I work on solving the food waste conundrum across Iowa and the nation. My clients consist of K-12 schools, breweries, nursing homes, jails, municipalities, compost sites, food banks, and anaerobic digestion facilities. I provide training and education when it comes to implementing strategies that prevent and/or divert food waste from landfills through better uses. I have also been working on building food waste composting infrastructure throughout Iowa for the last 9 years.

How did your major help prepare you for your current role? 
My geography major prepared me in many ways for my current role.  Majoring in geography with an environmental emphasis provided me with a deep understanding of current anthropogenic and natural issues affecting the globe that cause environmental degradation. It was through my major, the classes I took, and the professors who taught me that I found a passion to make a difference. I have dedicated my career to working on these issues, to make a difference, and to influence others about the importance of living light on the Earth and how to make a change.

But the most significant skill I learned while a student at UNI has been the ability to accept challenges and see them to the end through perseverance, determination, and dedication. This is attributed to the thesis I worked on while meeting challenge after challenge that needed solving in order to graduate. As frustrating as this was for me, I worked hard and endured until I finally finished. I use these skills to this day and still am always first in line to accept new challenges.

What is a memorable part of your studies or participation within your major?
All the field trips we did in the Geography Department were fun and the hands-on learning was highly valuable, not to mention the camaraderie I had with the other students and my professors. We camped near drumlins in Wisconsin, visited ice caves, GPS-surveyed Effigy Mounds National Monument, and toured many quarries. Dedicated faculty in the Geography Department made my major engaging, fun, educational, and interactive. 

What advice would you give to students currently interested in the same major and/or going into your career field?
Absolutely – Do it! The field of Geography is widely diverse to accommodate many different career paths. I took geography classes that covered human geography, transportation, maps, landform, and geomorphology.