Anne Jensen joined Fourth Economy + Steer after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University last spring with a Masters in Public Policy and Management. She moved to Pittsburgh in 2019 as an Americorp VISTA fellow, and through both her work and education Anne has had the privilege of learning about the city’s diverse communities. As an analytics consultant, she combines research and relational work to identify actionable, elegant solutions to clients’ problems.
We asked Anne a few questions about her role, how it builds on her past professional experiences, and what she’s excited to accomplish at Fourth Economy. Finally, Anne bravely weighed in on a subject of great cultural debate: pineapple as a pizza topping.
You are an Analytics Consultant for Fourth Economy. What does that entail? What does your work look like on any given day?
One of the benefits of working at a fairly small, cohesive firm like Fourth Economy is that there’s a lot of opportunity to take on different tasks and learn new skills. Although my official title is “analytics consultant,” I find that my interests and abilities allow me to straddle a variety of roles. One day I might be pulling US census data and creating visualizations for a baseline analysis to better understand the demographics of a community we’re working in, and the next I might be facilitating a community engagement session and helping guide people’s thoughts and ideas into an actionable strategy. Even though I find it fairly cliche, I can easily say that no one day’s work at Fourth Economy looks the same as any other.
Between undergrad and graduate school, you spent a year as an Americorp VISTA fellow at Tube City Renaissance, a community development organization in McKeesport, PA (just outside of Pittsburgh). What projects did you work on, and what lasting lessons do you continue to apply in your work at Fourth Economy?
My year as an AmeriCorps VISTA gave me a crash course in project management and community engagement skills that I continue to employ in my work at Fourth Economy. The role was challenging because I was the only full-time staff member this organization had ever had, which meant that while I had free rein to pursue whatever projects I wanted, I also lacked the support structure that comes with working at a more built out organization. I quickly realized that community input and building those relationships were the only ways that I would find success in the position, and I tried to make that my focus. I’m happy to say that I organized a financial literacy workshop in partnership with Dollar Bank, planted trees in Renzie Park with the help of dozens of local volunteers, and completed a vacant lot inventory in our target neighborhood before the COVID-19 pandemic cut my tenure short.
While in graduate school at Carnegie Mellon, you were a research assistant for the Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy (CAUSE) and researched the Black experience in Pittsburgh during public health crises from the 1918 Flu to the COVID-19 pandemic. How did the experience of looking at the past influence how you now approach the present and future?
This project was one of my favorite things that I worked on during my time in graduate school because it allowed me to exercise my research skills and learn more about Pittsburgh beyond the Carnegie Mellon bubble. I think it’s so important to have an understanding of the historical context of the place in which you live and work, and I think that has translated into the work I do at Fourth Economy. Knowing the history of an area can help you understand the origins of the structural barriers that we’re trying to help an area overcome, whether that’s addressing a lack of affordable housing or increasing equitable economic development in a way that supports underserved communities. Knowing the context can help inform that essential understanding of the present and fuel progress for the future.
What do you hope to accomplish with Fourth Economy this year?
This year, I hope to work on more projects that focus on sustainability and climate change. I’ve worked on several already that I’ve really enjoyed, from climate action planning to blue economy development, and I’d really like to keep that momentum going so I can continue to help communities plan for a stronger, more resilient future.
What’s your favorite pizza order? And where do you stand on the very controversial issue of pineapple as a pizza topping?
I have a secret fear that my local Papa John’s recognizes me every time I place an online delivery order because it’s always the same - a large chicken and pineapple pizza. Dip it in ranch and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.