Juniper Neill '91

  • Statement: Defending our natural environment
  • Profession: Foreign Service environment officer, US Agency for International Development
  • Major: International relations
  • Minor: Environmental studies
  • Graduation: Class of 1991

Juniper Neill lives in Kenya, where she directs the US government’s biodiversity conservation and climate adaptation program for Kenya and East Africa. But she vividly remembers her first visit to Mills for an admission interview. “I was wearing cargo pants and an old police jacket from the thrift store, and next to me sat a girl wearing a tailored suit,” she says. “I thought, ‘This place doesn’t want someone like me.’ Turns out they did, and I’m eternally grateful to Mills for seeing the potential in me.”

Once enrolled, says Juniper, “I was continually encouraged to take risks and be a leader.” She joined the Model United Nations student club and became sophomore and junior class president. She gained academic confidence with the help of her professors, small class sizes, and “most importantly my fellow students, who were a huge positive influence for me at a critical time in my life.” She says, “I learned how to lead, to listen, and to learn: qualities that have served me well in the management positions I've held throughout my career.”

After college, Juniper worked for an environmental consulting company, and two years later, started her own company, which grew quickly serving industry clients. “My experience at Mills encouraged my entrepreneurial spirit and helped me to take risks. After four years I took another big risk and joined the Peace Corps.”

Juniper later completed a master’s in international affairs and environmental policy at Columbia University, managed climate change research programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and in 2005 joined the US Agency for International Development. In 2010, President Obama appointed her a commissioned Foreign Service officer in the diplomatic service of the United States of America. “I’ve worked on sustainable development programs in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Tanzania, across Asia, and now in Kenya. My greatest motivation is the belief that we can solve our world’s most urgent problems. My time at Mills gave me both the tools and the courage to try.”