Meet Josan Feathers: Civil Engineer and Political ActivistApril 03, 2009
How often do we hear or voice concerns about the state of the world, seeming or feeling hopeless to make change? Josan Feathers, a 1989–90 American Fellow, has a vision for the future, and she is actively working for change. “I hope we can move to a more equal society — one where men and women of all races and even the environment are considered — to make the world a better place,” said Josan.
Currently Josan works as an associate civil engineer with the California State Park System, where she conceptualizes, designs, and oversees the construction of park projects and serves as the sustainability coordinator for the Acquisition and Development Division. At the same time, Josan promotes the use of water-saving products such as composting toilets, dual flush toilets, and waterless urinals in addition to renewable energy sources like photo-voltaic (solar power) and fuel cell systems.
AAUW played an important role in Josan’s professional journey. After working as a taxi driver and a seasonal firefighter, among other things, Josan eventually went back to school to study engineering. She is grateful for the American Fellowship she received 20 years ago because it enabled her to move forward and gave her the confidence to pursue her dreams. “It was a huge motivating force,” said Josan.
Outside of her job with the park system, Josan is actively involved with many organizations: the U.S. Green Building Council, the League of Women Voters, the National Women’s Political Caucus, the San Diego Country Democratic Party Central Committee, and others. The unifying theme, however, among all these groups is politics. Josan is also an AAUW member, and she believes we need to be political “for women to be heard, recognized, and treated as equals.” Josan works with the local Democratic Party through on four main issues: promoting energy sustainability (local energy generation), fighting against the California toll road slated to cut through the state park system, monitoring Blackwater’s presence in the San Diego area, and protesting the border fence separating the United States and Mexico.
As an engineer, Josan sees a critical intersection between her profession and politics. “The infrastructure has been neglected for years. Now we are realizing that engineers need to speak up if the country is to succeed socially and globally. In addition to actively supporting the issues, Josan also “walks the walk” at home by, for example, installing dual flush toilets and collecting her own rain water.
As active as she is, Josan said she hopes to retire by the end of the year, but before she does, she plans to leave her mark on the California State Parks by ensuring that they are on the path to sustainability. “I want to make sure they are developing more sustainable projects and maintenance techniques,” she said.
Once Josan retires, however, she plans to be “more involved with politics and the community while promoting sustainable approaches to living gently within the environment.” On her “to-do” list Josan includes getting more involved with AAUW and writing letters to the editor. In her spare time Josan hopes to travel around the country in a fuel-efficient RV with her husband and their three dogs, spending time with family and friends.