We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Baugh and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennifer, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
From day one, God had me on a great adventure. I was born in the Philippines and my brother was born in Hong Kong. We then moved to Norway, CT, San Antonio, and Miami where I went to high school. This travel gave me a great appreciation for people as well as a desire to learn and grow. It also gave me a bit of a restless heart, as I searched for my place in the world. I went to undergrad at Trinity University in San Antonio and after graduation, I worked at Merrill Lynch. After a couple of years, I went to grad school to get my MBA at A&M. I was recruited by a financial consulting firm that ultimately brought me to Dallas, TX. The company delayed my start-date, so I ended up having 8 months off in between grad school and my new job. For the first time in a long while, I didn’t have a work deadline or an exam, so it was truly a unique opportunity for me to step back and take stock of who I was and where I was going. This led to a process of intense soul-searching as I tried to figure out my purpose in life. I thought a lot about my faith during this time. My Mom definitely shared the Catholic faith with us, but I realized that my faith was surface level. I called myself Catholic, but I didn’t really know what I believed, and I definitely didn’t have a prayer life. After a few months of asking God to help me, I remember a defining moment one day where I felt an outpouring of God’s love and mercy. It was at that moment that I decided I wanted to be an authentic Catholic and that I was committed to following Christ for the rest of my life. This profound conversion experience in my Faith ultimately led to the inspiration for Young Catholic Professionals, the organization that I founded and now have the privilege of overseeing. I knew there had to be other young Catholics like myself who were committed to learning how to live in the world without being of the world – people who wanted help living their Catholic faith in daily life, including the workplace. In the three months before my job started, I recruited friends to help me start the group, I called successful executives to be speakers, and I managed to get quarterly sponsorship from a local company. What started as just an inspiration from the Holy Spirit some 10 years ago has now become a rapidly growing national non-profit impacting 10s of thousands of lives across the country.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Founded 10 years ago, YCP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization reaching young adults in their 20s & 30s. Our various programs & events draw in young people at every stage of the faith journey. Our goal is to inspire young professionals to grow deeper in their faith & then empower them to act as ambassadors for Christ in all areas of their lives, including the workplace. Over the years, we’ve been able to confirm the effectiveness of our programming. We now have 23 chapters nationwide, interest from over 60 cities, endorsements from 27 bishops, & testimonials from countless young people who talk about how YCP has transformed their lives. We are reaching 15-20,000 young people nationwide. Serving YCP has been an incredible opportunity for me to really grow as a person and as a leader for a couple of reasons. First, YCP features Catholic executives who serve as our speakers and mentors, so I have about 10 years worth of wisdom from these impressive individuals. Secondly, in order to grow YCP, I’ve really had to be an entrepreneur taking this organization from just an idea to a thriving apostolate. I’d like to share the top 3 things I’ve learned: 1. The Critical Nature of Perseverance: Part of perseverance is learning to adapt quickly when trials come. Don’t dwell; learn quickly & move on. If I had known before starting YCP the challenges that would lie ahead of me, I may never have started the journey. But you push through the tough times; you persevere for a greater purpose. So often today I see people quit when they’re faced with challenges at work, in relationships, in many areas. Studies have shown that entrepreneurship in young people is actually decreasing. But people with persevering mentalities don’t let the fear of failure stop them. In fact, “failure” may just be part of the path to where they are supposed to be. 2. Humility is Essential: I was so restless for most of my life because I thought I could just figure things out on my own. I was focused on myself. It wasn’t until I had time for silence in between grad school & my consulting job that I realized I was lost & finally had the humility to listen to God speaking to me. He speaks to every single one of us, but are we listening? Do we have the humility to recognize that we need Him? That we need other people? I wouldn’t have been able succeed in my YCP journey without Faith and without help from my family & so many others. We are all on this journey together, and we need each other. 3. Fortitude is Power: Our world today suffers from an absence of leadership. And God is calling each one of us to step up & rise to the occasion to be leaders. But something preventing a lot of people from that step forward is a fear of making the wrong decision. I quit my full-time paying job with nothing lined up – not even knowing if YCP would be a viable ministry, but I had faith that God was calling & based on my research I had fairly good certainty that there was something to this. So I made a decision with imperfect information. Most of the decisions that I make today with YCP are based on a fairly good idea that I’m pursuing the right direction, but I often have to make decisions quickly based on a lot of grey area & uncertainty. Having that courage to step forward has served me well in YCP & with my faith. Perseverance, Humility, and Fortitude: I think we can all agree with everything we’ve encountered this year, now is a perfect time to cultivate these virtues and allow them to transform our life.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Dallas has a great arts district – with the beautiful Cathedral Guadalupe, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and more. I’d visit these gems and then take a stroll in Klyde Warren Park. If you’re clever and creative, you can also find great happy hour spots at some fancy restaurants to people watch and enjoy a yummy beverage!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to begin by dedicating my Shoutout to God’s grace and mercy, to the love of the Holy Family, and to my faithful mother whose example and constant attention and support have made me the woman I am today. I thank my husband, Cody, for his tremendous patience and invaluable insights to help me as I navigate the challenges of leadership. I would also like to thank the countless people who have guided and mentored me, most especially the initial supporters of YCP including Alan Stewart, Richard Kelly, and Jim Moroney. I would like to thank Peter Blute, the teammate I could not grow and nurture this Mission without. And I would like to thank all the people who have served YCP on staff, on our board, as leaders and volunteers, as members, donors, chaplains, and in every capacity, large and small, to make this beautiful ministry possible for the glory of God.