Jennie Saia has several ‘past lives.’
Name: Jennie Saia
Position: Public communications specialist, UNC Gillings Communications Team
Time at the Gillings School: 2.5 years
What I do at UNC Gillings (and why I love it): I have a job that makes other people say, “Your work just seems like fun!” There’s a little more to it than that, but I do feel lucky. I get to help tell the story of the School through news writing, photos, social media and our e-newsletter.
My absolute favorite part of the job is running this interview series. I get to have coffee with funny, fascinating people and learn about their lives. For someone who thrives on stories, that’s a pretty great gig. I also have a passion for translating research to a general audience. The findings of researchers at our School really do have the power to change the world, and I like the challenge of expressing that work and its significance in a way any casual reader can appreciate.
Something people might not guess about me: is that I have several “past lives.” I sometimes get funny looks when I say this, but I just mean that I’ve had a lot of interests and hobbies over the years. I tend to throw myself into something wholeheartedly for a while and then leave it behind for the next great adventure. Some of these past lives include: wilderness guide, ESL teacher in Mexico, professional chocolatier, marathon runner and mascot (for exactly one day).
An accomplishment I’m proud of: Since I’m interviewing myself here, I’ll cheat and roll two answers into one! In November 2016, I defended my graduate thesis while (very) pregnant. I delivered my daughter in January of this year, and she actually crossed the stage with me in May when I walked at commencement. I figured she’d done the studying and the research with me, so she deserved the accolades, too! “Our” degree is in digital communications, earned from UNC’s School of Media and Journalism.
A fictional character I relate to: would have to be Anne of Green Gables. It’s hard to choose just one, because my bookcases at home are bursting with real and fictional accounts of strong women. Anne Shirley is special, though, because she’s an eternal optimist who sees beauty and meaning in the smallest things, but she still lives in the real world. When her family is about to lose their farm, she’s the one who saves it. (In other words: Never underestimate someone just because they smile a lot.)
To start a conversation with me: try to make me laugh! It’s not hard — I love terrible puns and corny one-liners more than I should admit.
Read more Five Question Interviews.