Welcome to Amanda Serenyi! Our ESLT team is thrilled that Amanda has joined us as our new Membership Coordinator.
Amanda comes to us with an impressive accounting background in the non-profit and land trust sphere.
Amanda began working with us in June and is excited to join the ESLT team.
To help you get to know Amanda better, we asked her a few questions about her background and interests:
Tell us about your roots!
I was born in foggy Eureka and my father was in logging, making his living cutting down and milling redwood trees. When I was 10, my mom and I moved to the Bay Area and I became a city kid who drove into the hills at night to see a sea of city lights. I wasn’t outdoorsy, preferring to read or watch tv, so this was the closet thing I had to appreciating nature. I’ve always been a runner, but of sidewalks, not trails. As I trained for my first marathon, though, a friend suggested I try mixing in trails, and I’ve had a love-hate relationship with trail running ever since (I love the views and the endorphins, I hate the plodding speeds and increased difficulty). Then, I met the man I would marry and he introduced me to hiking. When we moved to Arlington, Virginia, we used hiking as a way to explore our new area and step away from life’s demands. Right before our wedding, we hit the trail to burn off stress and vowed to take time to surround ourselves with nature whenever we needed to recenter ourselves.
My first job in conservation was at The Nature Conservancy’s Worldwide Office supporting the Mesoamerican and Caribbean Region’s philanthropy team. I had majored in Spanish in at UC Berkeley and was thrilled to put my language skills to use, while I was also learning about international land protection techniques. Rather than leaning into conservation, however, working closely with the finance team at TNC led me to discover a career in accounting. I left TNC and became a CPA specializing in nonprofits. Then my husband’s job brought us to San Francisco and after a little more time auditing nonprofits, I wanted to put down roots in an organization and became Controller of Peninsula Open Space Trust. This was my true education in the power of local land trusts and the effectiveness (and unique accounting for) conservation easements.
What brought you to the Eastern Sierra?
Growing up in the Bay Area, the Eastern Sierra was an unknown part of California. I didn’t even visit Yosemite until I was out of college. On the cross-country drive when moving back to California in 2011, someone suggested taking an extra day to go up 395 rather than I-5. I stayed in Bishop that night, and when the setting sun lit up the Glass Mountains, and silhouetted what I’d later learn was Mt. Tom and the other peaks east of Bishop, I felt like I was home. I often fall in love with places I visit, but Bishop, and breakfast in Mammoth the following morning, changed me. It didn’t hurt that I had just received some life-altering news the afternoon before driving up 395. So, to feel like I was reborn in the Eastern Sierra wouldn’t be a stretch. Over the next several years, my husband and I visited Mammoth a couple of times. Then when the pandemic struck, Mammoth was our first vacation destination. By the end of our stay, we decided to buy a place and ride out the rest of the pandemic in a place that inspired us both.
What makes you most excited about living in the Eastern Sierra?
While I don’t live in the Eastern Sierra full time, whenever I am here I’m reminded why I never want to leave. The views, the aspens, the crispness of the air, the wildflowers punctuating an otherwise dusty sage scrub landscape, all of it leaves me in awe, whether I’m on a trail or gazing at the Sherwins and Mammoth Crest from my couch. Even just driving through town and seeing the silhouette of a small group of deer lounging in a tree’s shade at midday makes me stop and stare (and usually take a photo). In the winter, dropping into Bishop for a warmer, less snowy run along the canals surrounded by mountain peaks and an endless stretch of flat valley, the beauty of the wide-open spaces stops me in my tracks, and often brings The Chicks’ iconic song to my mind. It’s also the people that choose to live in the Eastern Sierra—the way everyone is more concerned about which trail or lake you checked out most recently, or what wildlife encounter you had, more than what your job is or what’s going on in politics.
What do you look forward to most about working with ESLT?
My role as ESLT’s Membership Coordinator braids together all the important pieces of my personal and professional life: preserving the landscape that has meant so much to me, building on my accounting and land trust background, but with an emphasis on the members who make our work possible, and keeping me connected to the Eastern Sierra even when I can’t physically be here all the time. I look forward to exploring our properties and meeting our members over time and better understanding the area we’re all dedicated to. If anyone has suggestions for improvements to our membership program, I’m all ears.
What activities do you enjoy outside of work?
As much as I’ve grown to love nature and being outside, I’m still a homebody. Some days, my only draws outside are my daily run and walking our senior dog Maya, a “Virginia country special,” who is also more of a homebody these days than an explorer. I stay busy indoors knitting, tinkering in the kitchen, listening to podcasts, and maintaining various streaks (daily NYT crossword and Wordle, learning languages on Duolingo). In the winter, I cross-country ski and strap on snowshoes or Yaktrax to keep up my runs. In the “before times,” my husband and I traveled extensively, but these days, Mammoth is the only place I want to spend my time away from San Francisco.
If you see Amanda out and about, please take a moment to say hello and talk about protecting our wild and working lands!