Ken and Catherine (Burns) Graeve
Major: Biology (Ken) & Nursing (Catherine)
Year of Graduation: 2001 (Ken) & 2002 (Catherine)
Current Job Title:
Ecological restoration for Shooting Star Native Seeds (Ken)
Registered Nurse on a Hematology/Oncology floor (Catherine)
They took time to volunteer after graduation before beginning jobs in nursing and ecological restoration.
What made you decide to volunteer after graduation?
We spent a year volunteering because we wanted to take a break from working for money and instead work to experience new things. We chose to work at the Gesundheit! Institute because we were intrigued by its philosophy and wanted to learn more about it. And what better way of learning than doing? Gesundheit! is Patch Adam's work toward reforming the health care delivery system. We worked at the site in West Virginia where a free hospital will be built and where health care will be achieved through community interaction rather than by a business transaction. We were surrounded by interesting people from around the world who worked at living in a community while working hard and playing hard. Our work involved a lot of organic gardening and some ecological restoration. It was a part of the effort to make the space a healthy place for people to live in community with each other and the land, which will be crucial to realizing health when the hospital is built.
What are you currently doing and what is your typical day like?
Ken: I work for Shooting Star Native Seeds, a company that grows and sells native prairie and wetland seed for the purpose of ecological restoration. There is no typical day at work. Depending on the season and the weather, I can be found planting, harvesting seed with a combine, cleaning seed, and meeting with a landowner about a prairie planting, or conducting a prescribed burn. I enjoy the variety and the mix between hands-on labor and decision-making that employs my educational background in biology.
Catherine: I am employed at Mayo Clinic as a Registered Nurse on a Hematology/Oncology floor. I work with people and their families that have been diagnosed with cancer, usually a leukemia or lymphoma. I like the challenge and mystery of medicine. Getting to know a person at the time of their life that they have been diagnosed with a terrible illness is tough, but it is also beautiful.
What are your favorite aspects of your job and least favorite aspect?
Catherine: I feel that a cancer diagnosis is so all-encompassing of life and therefore enjoy being a part of the many stages that patients experience. Since these people are often in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy or other treatment for so long, I get to know them and their often supportive families so well. This is the best part of my job. It is also the worst part, because after going through much laughter and tears, I sometimes am with my friends as they die. I also get frustrated about the 'why' question of cancer, and how it connects to ways in which we live in and treat our world.
Ken: My favorite thing about working with Shooting Star Native Seeds is the opportunity to make a living by protecting and restoring our ecological heritage. My biggest challenge will be finding ways to combine the cooperative attitude of the conservation field with the competitive mindset of business.
What advice would you offer to students trying to decide what they would like to do after graduation?
We encourage students to study what fascinates them and create a career that involves doing what they enjoy to accomplish something they feel strongly about. Post-graduate plans do not have to be set in stone and career paths can take the scenic route. Our parents' and grandparents' generations worked while they were young and retired when they got old. We have lived a few years of our "retirement" already, while we are young enough to fully experience it. We will have plenty of time to work when we are older. We feel that both our time volunteering and the time we spent after graduation hiking on the Appalachian Trail gave us insight into who we are. We also feel that this experience outside of traditional "work" has really broadened who we are and how we interact in our world...adding to what we have been able to enjoy in and contribute to our jobs.