Since arriving to Santa Cruz in 2013, Laurie Egan has become a dynamic leader in creating ways for people to get engaged in our community. Whether its inspiring other young professionals to serve through United Way's Emerging Leaders Circle or her work with the Coastal Watershed Council to educate the public on #MySanLorenzo, Laurie has truly become a champion in paving the way for a more vibrant and healthier community.
1. What is your job and what do you do?
I am the Outreach and Development Manager for the Coastal Watershed Council, or CWC for short. At CWC, we’re working to reconnect the Santa Cruz community to the San Lorenzo River so that we all know how we both rely on and impact the river. In essence, my job is to connect people to the San Lorenzo River in whatever way is most meaningful for them.
2. What is an awesome aspect of your job?
I love being able to meet so many different people. From students to poets to fellow young professionals to new neighbors, scientists and historians, it seems as though I’m meeting someone new each week I work. I love hearing stories from people about how the San Lorenzo River has shaped their lives. I also get so energized when we’re hosting an event and I learn that through our event, someone was able to visit the river for the very first time. It’s that gathering of community that’s so rewarding.
3. How else are you involved in the community?
I’m a steering committee member of the Emerging Leaders Circle of Santa Cruz. I love being a part of the group because it not only helps connect young professionals, but it does so with purpose – to educate, inspire and engage my peers in the community. There’s a real focus on the difference that each individual can make and the shifts we can create when we work together. It’s really inspiring.
4. What's a fun fact about the San Lorenzo River, and how can we get involved to support the Coastal Watershed Council's Mission?
I often tell people that if you live, work or play in the City of Santa Cruz approximately 2/3 of your water comes from the San Lorenzo River watershed. It’s the water that you drink on a daily basis, that you shower in and that might even make your favorite local beer.
Every day we’re looking for people to give back to their community through the San Lorenzo River, so that in the heart of our community we can have a vibrant, safe and thriving greenspace. Imagine the Santa Cruz Riverwalk, the park that lines the lower river, as Santa Cruz’s central park. We could have that, especially if we all lend a helping hand. If you want to volunteer your skills like graphic design or gain new skills like learning to test water quality, you can find a fun and interesting way to volunteer with CWC. You can donate. Any amount of financial support makes a big difference. You can share your ideas. Share what you envision when you picture a thriving San Lorenzo River. You can get involved in any of these ways by visiting sanlorenzoriver.org.
5. Why do you choose to stay in Santa Cruz?
The people. I grew up in a small town in Western Massachusetts (think 5,000 people), where I knew most of my classmates since I was in kindergarten. I’d walk around town and I knew my community and my community knew me. I didn’t necessarily think I’d find that in a city, even a small one like Santa Cruz. I’m so lucky that I have. It feels great to be a part of a broader community here, where I feel connected to the people and the place. It feels like a small town. And, as an environmentalist, of course I’m drawn to the beautiful coastal landscape and towering redwood forests we get to call home.
6. What is some advice you can give to other young professionals?
Something that I’ve found rewarding is deepening my relationships with those that inspire me. I have coffee and lunch dates regularly with women who I look to as mentors and friends. While our conversations aren’t always explicitly about work, I’ve found that I’ve gleamed so much wisdom from these conversations. So to other young professionals, I’d say that if someone inspires you, ask them to grab a coffee with you, to take a walk by the river or to ask if you can have a conversation with them. And when you do – pick a date, put it on the calendar and make it official, rather than having it as a good intention that falls by the wayside.
7. What were your previous jobs leading up to the one you have now?
I graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Analysis from Harvey Mudd College in 2012. From there, I headed straight to the Bay Area with an intention to work at an environmental nonprofit. I spent a year in Berkeley and Oakland doing internships and temporary jobs at places like Pesticide Action Network and Center for Environmental Health. While in those temporary roles, I was applying for permanent positions at organizations that worked on toxics, environmental justice, clean energy – you name it. At times it was disheartening because I’d hear that my job application was one of 270 that had been submitted for the position and was being denied. Or others, I’d sit through hours of interviews to simply not hear a word back from. In the midst of it all, I found what seemed to be the perfect role for me – a job titled River Champion at the Coastal Watershed Council. I got it about 4 years ago and while my title has changed over the years, it has been a perfect fit ever since.
8. What are some more fun activities you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Unsurprisingly, I love rivers. I spend a lot of my time visiting rivers – the San Lorenzo of course, but also hiking, camping and travelling, often to rivers. I take an annual camping trip with a big group of friends up to the Yuba River outside of Nevada City. I love camping along rivers in Big Sur and visiting friends in Portland, OR in the southwest and on the east coast. Pretty much everywhere you might travel has a river, and they’re fun to check out wherever you go.
9. Tell us what your favorite hangout places we can find you at!
I’m a big coffee-drinker, so Lulu’s or Verve is always a safe bet. For a happy hour drink or on the weekends you might find me at Lupulo, Pour or 515. Oh, and, of course, the San Lorenzo River, but I think you already knew that.