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Posted 4/4/2016

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By Robert Kidd

Kaitlyn Pascus wasn’t feeling a lot of love from her hometown of Chicago two years after graduating college. Looking for a fresh start and new adventures, she turned to the interwebs for potential landing spots. Sacramento and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seemed like an ideal destination.

Pascus graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign in August 2013 full of energy and motivated to make a difference in the world.

“I was trying to land an entry-level job related to natural resources, but every job in the Chicago area required five years of prior experience!” she remembers.

Fast forward to March 2016 – Pascus just completed her first year as a regulatory project manager with the Sacramento District, has an office full of new friends, regularly plays host to family visiting California and just got a puppy. Wahoo!

[Note: Your experience may vary and lawyers indicate that the Corps cannot promise every new employee a puppy. Gimlet, Pascus’s new puppy pal, is a service dog in training.]

Pascus grew up in Palatine, Illinois, a northwestern suburb of Chicago. Her mother is a nurse and her father is a stock broker. With two older brothers, she grew up playing a lot of sports, including almost 10 years of soccer. She’s currently playing on a co-ed volleyball team through a local recreational sports group.

“Dad almost made it into the 1980 Winter Olympics as a speed skater,” says Pascus. “Mom and Dad have always supported us in our sporting activities.”

Pascus began college at Northern Illinois University studying biology on a full-ride volleyball scholarship. After transferring to UIUC, she took a class about natural resources and environmental sciences. She was hooked. Pascus graduated with a NR / ES degree and business minor.

The northern California counties of Sierra, Nevada and Placer are her area to serve. Her job involves a lot of coordination with other state, local and tribal organizations. “And I enjoy getting out in the field,” she says.

“Customer service is central to our job, staying in regular contact with permit applicants,” says Pascus. “I think about it from their point of view and no one likes to feel ignored.”

Her coworkers are very supportive, helping her learn the new job and get situated in Sacramento. “No one’s 100 percent ready for this job unless they’ve done it before,” she says. “This job was described as being ‘interdisciplinary’, and it truly is.”

“Whenever I see the environmental engineering plans here [at the Corps] I think they’re fascinating and I’m learning more with every project,” she says. “I feel a desire to stay active, learning and always moving forward.”

Planning ahead, Pascus has taken the Graduate Record Exam, an admission requirement for most graduate schools, though she says she’s not ready to go for a master’s degree: “Not this week!”

Along with playing volleyball and training a service dog puppy in her spare time, Pascus has enjoyed playing in the Sierra Nevada snow this winter.

“I couldn’t justify buying a snowboard when I lived in Chicago – it was too far from good mountains,” she says. “Now, everyone at home is so jealous when I’m on Snapchat and they say: ‘Hey, weren’t you at that resort last weekend?’

“Yes, and I’m there again,” she laughs. “It’s really nice to have all that powder so close!”

Clearly the region is a good fit, and so is the new job.

Pascus concludes, “It was probably a good sign that my start date with the Corps was on my birthday!”

Corps of Engineers regulatory sacramento district U.S. Army