Kids, tough mudders, & enviro ed — HSU lecturer adapts

By Dominique Sinatra
Flapjack staff

Previously a wildlife and fisheries major at Humboldt State University, later pursuing a master’s in education and teaching credential in Colorado, Jennifer Ortega is a lecturer in the department of recreation administration and environmental education.

“I was working as a fishery biologist and he [Ortega’s husband, Justus] was smoke jumping [forest firefighter who parachutes to locations hard to reach], but was coming back and deciding to go to grad school,” says Jennifer Ortega. “We were dating and we ended up getting pregnant with Jasmine.”

This is when she realized she was moving to Colorado to follow Justus Ortega since she was having his baby.

“It was a challenge for both of us,” says Justus Ortega. “The traumatic experience of suddenly you’re going to be a mother and your partner is saying they are going to Colorado.”

She is the mother of two, Jasmine and Jude with husband Justus Ortega who also is a teacher at Humboldt State University. He is a professor of kinesiology as a 10-year track.

“She is an exceptionally adaptive person,” says Justus Ortega. “She can walk into a lot of environments and figure out how to make something work.” At this point Justus Ortega had decided he was going to also pursue his PhD.

“I suddenly realized we were going to remain in Colorado for another who knows how long,” says Jennifer Ortega. “I was like what am I doing, what do I want to do.”

This is when she decided to pursue her master’s in education and teaching credential. Teaching at a sixth grade school it was required that every student go to the outdoor school up in the Rocky Mountains.

“That’s when I realized this is what I do, I’m an environmental educator,” says Jennifer Ortega. “That’s when I realized this is my passion.”

Wrapping things up in Colorado, Justus Ortega landed a job at Humboldt State University and Jennifer Ortega immediately got a job at Redwood National and State Parks as ‘Ranger Jen,’ an interpreter. She then started coordinating programs at the Natural History museum, later being offered a spot at the university as a lecturer. Starting Fall 2012 was the beginning of her new chapter with environmental education and interpretation.

“I have been so fortunate, the doors have just opened,” says Jennifer Ortega. “Everything is in around science education, environmental education, and this connection to human systems and natural systems. Where they intersect that is what I want people to understand.”

Coming home from a memorial service she asked her husband, “What do you want people to say he was famous for?” He then in turned asked her and she replied, “I want them to say I was a rock star of an environmental educator at Humboldt County,” says Jennifer Ortega.

Justus Ortega explains that she has found a niche in environmental education because she brings a level of organization that is needed to connect bigger ideas and weave them together. He continues to say that it is something that she excels at, and when thrown setbacks she immediately falls into the next niche.

“She is constantly adapting to new environments and creates them,” says Justus Ortega. “I don’t think she recognizes that she creates a lot of this stuff with herself for herself.”

“She creates those future opportunities and is really good at maintaining relationships in the community and those relationships lead too new opportunities,” says Justus Ortega.

Along with co-instructor Jennifer Tarlton, a lecturer in the department of environmental science and management, she too has known Jennifer for about 10 years.

“I approached her about helping teach my environmental communications course,” says Tarlton. “We co-taught that class for a number of years and then I brought her into co-teach my environmental education and interpretation course.”

Tartlon recognizes that she is innovative in the terms of forward thinking about what is in the best interest of her students in terms of competency and to demonstrate that for their future careers.

“She has her foot in each department and can bridge that between each department,” says Tarlton. “There is a lot of overlap between recreation administration and environmental education and I send a lot of my students to her for supplementary courses.”

“I do teach for two different programs and I really like it because I gets students that come in and they are focused on recreation, but some of them really want the science and land management,” says Jennifer Ortega. She knows how to differentiate between the students’ needs whether it is a recreation or an environmental focus.

Jennifer Ortega considers her work, work but she also takes time to make sure that she balances her leisure time to be the most productive worker that she can be. That sometimes she does need to recharge her battery, but then is re-energized to get the next thing done.

“My husband and I are planning a Tough Mudder,” says Jennifer Ortega.

“She does crazy activities like crawls through the mud and that isn’t something I would do,” says Tarlton.

Tarlton explains her as living life to the fullest and that is something to really admire. She doesn’t let life slip by and goes after her dreams to make them happen. She is willing to work hard to get what she wants.

Jennifer Ortega is also thinking about going back and getting her EdD, which is more in her interest as it pertains more to education, and is more relevant to her teaching.

“I would like to do it at University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, that was the first university to start teaching environmental education,” says Jennifer Ortega.

“It’s like a full circle to finish this doctoral degree at the beginning of the environmental education world,” says Jennifer Ortega. “I could have this, this is reasonable and something I could do.”

“I need to nurture something so why not nurture my passion,” says Jennifer Ortega. With her husband just about maxed out at the career that he can do at the university and her kids growing up, this is the next step.


Opera’s not ‘old-timey’ after all, music student discovers

By Grace Becker
Flapjack staff

The first singer of the music department’s learning session March 17, Jessie Neuffer, 21, walked out in a black and gold mermaid-style dress. Short, dark hair pulled back against her she smiled at the applause from her classmates and friends, and stood quietly as her accompanying pianist sat at the massive Steinway. Maybe someone who didn’t know what they would be watching would have expected something different, but as Neuffer opened her mouth, a flowing, elegant, Japanese opera echoed through the music department performance hall.

A student at California State University Stanislaus, Neuffer is in her third year at the school. She lives in nearby Modesto, and commutes five days a week, attending her voice and music theory classes, as well as performing in “directed learning” performances where she performs a piece in front of her classmates and professors.

Opera wasn’t always on the table, however. While Neuffer always knew she wanted to be a singer, and has taken lessons since she was in the fourth grade, it wasn’t something she really enjoyed.

“I love classical music, but I hated opera,” Neuffer explained. “I actually started studying music at Stanislaus State with a plan to go on Broadway but I wanted classical training. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I started to like opera.”

It was the role of Cherubino from the opera Le Nozze di Figaro that started Neuffer’s love of opera. Cherubino is what is known as a “pant role” or “trouser role,” which is when a woman plays a man or a boy.

“I always though opera was so boring because you had these long arias that never seem to end and you had to play these boring female roles of like, the main, or the gossipy servant, or a mother, or the damsel in distress,” Neuffer said.

It turned out, though, that with her voice type she can play all the pant roles that she thinks are really fun. After getting the role of Cherubino she did more research and opera quickly became an obsession.

“Now I really think that opera is a lot more interesting than most people know,” Neuffer said. Her love of opera is very evident in the way she describes it. It has dramatic story lines that are fun to perform, and isn’t just this ‘old timey, stuffy kind of art.’

Opera is hard, though. Neuffer explained that it is challenging because there is a great deal of technique just in the singing alone, not to mention the acting and sometimes even dancing. You sing opera without microphones, so your voice has to be able to carry in big opera houses.

“Also the language…that is a whole other story,” Neuffer sighs. “You have to try to connect to the text and know the language as much as possible. Most opera singers speak many different languages that they sing in.” Neuffer has sung in Japanese, French, Russian, German, and Italian, though she cites German has her favorite to sing in.

“I just love all of the consonants and the sounds you make that sound like you’re clearing your throat. I like taking all of those sounds and using them to my advantage to make the diction and the scene more dramatic,” Nueffer described.

Though opera is a more recent obsession, her love of music is a family affair.

“Music is something I grew up with,” Neuffer explained. Both of her parents are music teachers, and her father performs with different orchestras. Her mother teaches band, orchestra, guitar, choir, and winter percussion. Music has always been a big part of her life.

Close friends and classmates praised Neuffer’s talent, as well as her progression as an artist. Nueffer’s partner, Jaime Farrar, commented on her transformation.

“It’s not just her singing, which is great, but just the way she holds herself,” Farrar said. “It’s very poised, and kinda just captures your attention. She’s always been amazing, but watching her grow has been awesome.”








Community comes together for more than Moonlight’s accolades

By Hector Arzate

Flapjack staff

While you might expect most students at Humboldt State University to be crunching for homework or studying on a weeknight, the Kate Buchanan Room saw rows of chairs filled as if it were an early morning intro to biology course. The difference, however, is that nobody was struggling to stay awake and keep their eyes on the screen at the end of the room.

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, the department of Student Engagement And Leadership, in collaboration with the Queer Student Union, the Women’s Resource Center and the African American Center for Academic Excellence hosted a free screening and student panel discussion of the award winning film Moonlight.

Ketly Sylla, 19, sociology major and student staff at the African American Center for Academic Excellence felt the excitement and engagement from both audience and community members.

“Overall, it was a good turnout,” Sylla said. “We even had to bring in more chairs. Some people came for a class, some came to see it for the first time and some were even seeing it for the fifth time.”

The film, which has received more than eight Academy Award nominations and took home best motion picture at the Golden Globes, has received universal acclaim for everything from its cinematography to its diverse cast.

For students like Harrel Deshazier, 21, psychology major and student panelist, the film means more than the medium by which its measured.

“It is such a valuable film,” Deshazier said. “It tells a story that humanizes black people, something we don’t get to see often. And more so, queer black men who are always portrayed as hypersexual and aggressive. We don’t get to see the other side in movies.”

The panel consisted of three self-identifying queer people of color, Taiden Partlow, Malcolm Chanaiwa and Deshazier. However, it was open to comments and reactions from the audience as well.

Having seen the film more than once, Chanaiwa expressed the importance of both the film and the space that was held to discuss it.

“It is so powerful,” Chanaiwa said. “I cry whenever I think about it, and I think about it a lot. So it’s awesome that we can hold this space to view the movie and discuss what it means to us.”

One audience member who identified as a black Latina felt that she could relate to the diverse and inclusive themes throughout the film’s story.

“You don’t really see multiculturalism in identity portrayed in film,” she said. “Juan [Mahershala Ali’s character] is a black Cuban. So the scene where he said black people are everywhere was powerful to me. As a black Latina, that really impacted me, and it means a great deal to me.”