For some people, their passion leads them to a specific job. For others, like Cathleen O’Higgins, however, her job led her to discover a passion.
O’Higgins is the health, safety, and environmental coordinator at Dakota Spirit AgEnergy, a company in the ethanol industry. In this position, she works to ensure the safety of the employees and the workers. On the environmental side, she oversees compliance with OSHA and the EPA. “I have a degree in exercise science, and I kind of fell into health and safety when I moved to Jamestown,” said O’Higgins, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in personal hygiene.
Before starting her current job, O’Higgins was not familiar with ethanol. She did a lot of interviewing and learning, and has found the process so interesting that she is considering pursuing further education on environmental topics.
Although her master’s program does not directly relate to her work, O’Higgins is considering taking advantage of diverse course offerings that would prepare her for future environmental work. “As I get through the program, I am looking at pursuing a dual program in environmental work, especially as the ethanol technology has continued to advance. As we are seeing environmental issues all over the world, I anticipate seeing more interest.”
Originally from Toronto, O’Higgins moved to Jamestown, North Dakota, for family, and found a passion in a job that allows her to make an impact on her community.
The biggest change, O’Higgins said, “was moving to a rural community. There are so many jobs in North Dakota right now. A lot of people have moved to Jamestown because they are looking for that smaller community lifestyle.”
O’Higgins enjoys the rural lifestyle, including hunting waterfowl and deer. Her love of the outdoors makes her job even more rewarding.
“I feel like I’m doing my part to preserve the environment, especially as an avid fisher and hunter,” said O’Higgins.
She also finds satisfaction in knowing that her company is another customer and source of income for local corn growers. Dakota AgEnergy uses a substantial amount of corn, and the company is able to benefit the economy.
The community in Jamestown is small, and since people know where she works, O’Higgins gets lots of questions.
“It gives me an opportunity to lobby ethanol, to educate the community and people who know me,” O’Higgins said. “Coming from a metropolis area, you have some issues knowing that you can see the smog line – knowing that ethanol is out there and reduces the pollution.”
O’Higgins even posts on Instagram about ethanol now – “It’s something I go out of my way to share on my personal media,” she said.
- North Dakota
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