Jennifer Smyser is director of policy programming at the Stanley Foundation, leading a team of policy professionals focused on nuclear security, human protection, and climate change. Before becoming director of policy programming in 2013, she was a program officer for more than six years, overseeing the foundation’s nuclear security policy programming as well as citizen leader outreach. Prior to joining the foundation in 2006, Jennifer spent a decade working at US-based nongovernmental organizations focused on US global engagement and citizen diplomacy. She holds a master's degree in public administration from Drake University.
What do you do at the foundation and how long have you been here?
I first learned about the Stanley Foundation in 1994. I was amazed by and fascinated with its mission and work from there on out. I spent many years waiting for a position to open up that I might qualify for and was lucky enough in June 2006 for that to happen.
I am the director of policy programming, leading a team of dynamic and talented staff working to pursue the foundation’s mission. While most days that means battling my inbox, going to meetings, and joining conference calls, the days when I get to see and be a part of the programming that brings our goals and vision to life are the best.
What do you like most about your job?
Being a part of the Stanley Foundation has allowed me to meet people I would not have otherwise met, taken me to places I would not have otherwise gone, and expanded my knowledge in ways I could not have foreseen. All of this means I get to be a better person because of where I work.
Where are you from?
I am a native Iowan who has only lived outside the state twice to study abroad. I grew up not understanding how big the world is or how big the realm of possibilities is for life. While my upbringing was far from sheltered, I had limited exposure to much geographically and culturally beyond the state of Iowa. A trip to Kenya—the grand prize from a radio contest I asked my stepmom to enter—when I was 15 opened my eyes to the world.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I’ve always loved to read fiction, but being the mom of an active grade-schooler doesn’t leave as much time for it as I’d like. I play a mean game of Scrabble, enjoy growing a garden, and try to contribute to my community through volunteer efforts.