Keeping the rivers

As executive director of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Jill Jedlicka, MBA ’00, tackles some of the region’s biggest fresh water challenges, such as cleaning up toxic sediment, eliminating sewage overflows, restoring critical habitat and advocating for the long-term health of the Great Lakes.

Her position is the latest in a career of environmental stewardship. After earning a bachelor’s in environmental studies from UB in 1996, she served as an environmental education specialist for the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning. While working there full time, she attended the School of Management part time to earn her MBA.

She says the UB MBA experience helped her to adapt and translate her communication style and perspectives to be a productive team member.

“I was one of only a handful of non-business majors coming in to the MBA program,” says Jedlicka. “Transitioning from a science and policy background, it helped my professional growth by working closely with teams of students in a multidisciplinary environment.”

From there, she took up her first role at Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, serving as director of ecological programs for nearly a decade. She was named to her current post in 2012, and the organization was renamed Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper in 2017 to reflect its broader mission.

“The most valuable aspect of the MBA program for me was the emphasis on team coordination, consensus building and creative problem solving. These life lessons and experiences have helped shape who I am as an executive and team leader,” says Jedlicka.

“It is not about the letters after your name or the degree on a piece of paper. It is how you apply the skill sets and experiences gained from working with your professors and peer group that I reflect on the most over the past 17 years.”

Jedlicka says being able to have a visible and positive impact on the community is the most motivating part of her job.

“I am excited to get up and go to work in the morning, and come home enjoyably exhausted at the end of the day knowing that my life’s work has meaning and impact.”

When she’s not caring for the environment on the job, she has fun spending time in the outdoors — hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, traveling and exploring with her family whenever she can.

“Also, my job is fun,” says Jedlicka. “Life is too short to not pursue a career you love. The School of Management provides a strong foundation and springboard, but it is up to you to define your passion and legacy.”

Written by Kevin Manne, this story originally appeared in Buffalo Business magazine. After press time, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper changed its name to Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper to reflect the broader scope of its work and impact.