Grad Takes "Dream Job" in the Herbal Field

Marisol Mangual, a 2006 graduate of Bastyr's herbal sciences bachelor's completion program, finds it amazing that after spending only two years at Bastyr studying herbal sciences, she is working at a "dream job" and gaining so much respect from her peers.

"Really, it's like a dream," she says. "I just pinch myself sometimes and ask, 'How did this happen?' It's too perfect."

What is this dream job? It's a position as the laboratory manager at Mountain Rose Herbs in Oregon, the third largest bulk herb distributor in the United States. Mangual landed a job at the company one month after she graduated from Bastyr and quickly climbed the ranks to become the laboratory manager and quality control (QC) manager. In this position, she runs the testing on all herbs received by the lab and ensures compliance with industry regulations.

Mangual had originally dreamed of making her own products or become a naturopathic doctor. Certainly, she never thought she'd be interested in quality assurance, but she actually relishes the challenge and creative problem-solving involved in managing the lab. She is the primary microbiology tester of all bulk herbs that arrive at the facility, examining them for bacteria, yeast, mold, E. coli and heavy metals, among other things. She has streamlined the lab's processes and made them more sophisticated, and she is currently handling the details to ensure that the facility receives approval for compliance with the FDA's newly enacted Dietary Supplement Good Manufacturing Practices, with which all herb and supplement companies must comply.

Although Mangual had once thought quality control was a "dry" topic, it turns out that her position is fun. Working in this capacity, she can make a difference in a field that she loves, and, best of all, she has a chance to surround herself daily with herbal plants, taste and smell them, and consider herb-related matters on a daily basis.

Yet, Mangual did not end up in this position due to chance. Her career success is in part due to her willingness to start in an entry-level position and to draw attention to her skills and abilities in order to get promoted. She started at Mountain Rose Herbs as a customer service representative, which she enjoyed because it afforded her a chance to discuss herbs throughout the day. But soon, she started talking with her co-workers about her degree from Bastyr University and the in-depth knowledge she acquired in school. To illustrate exactly how much she knew about herbs, she printed out the herbal sciences program curriculum from Bastyr's website and showed the company vice president. He was then convinced that she had the ability to run the laboratory. After only six months of employment, she was promoted to lab manager.

Mangual credits her ability to tackle this position to the classes in quality assurance she took at Bastyr and how she gained exposure to all aspects of the field, including knowledge of plants, the chemical constituencies of herbs, herbal medicines and their applications, how to create herbal formulas, and the ins and outs of the herbal products industry. "If you want to become involved in the business side of the field, this degree is excellent – there's no other program like this. You learn a little bit of everything," she explains. She adds, "The degree from Bastyr University was absolutely worth it. Otherwise, right now I would be doing customer service and would be okay with that, but this opportunity is unbelievable."

Although she initially had to educate her company about the difference between a botany degree and an herbal sciences bachelor's degree from Bastyr, people at her company now hold her knowledge and Bastyr's herbal sciences program in high esteem. In fact, another Bastyr herbal sciences graduate, Crystal, who works at Wise Acres, an educational herb farm just down the road, took a tour of Mountain Rose Herbs one day. Afterward, the director of Human Resources at Mountain Rose Herbs approached Mangual and said, "You and Crystal are such great advocates for Bastyr's herbal sciences program. You know so much!"

Mangual's road to becoming an herbal expert began only 10 years ago. She was 19 years old and living in Chicago, and she just happened to read a book about juicing by Michael Murray, ND. She was impressed. "The way he talked about vitamins and minerals medicinally – I had never heard of that before," she says. "I wondered, 'Where did this guy go to school?'" She noticed on the back cover that he attended Bastyr University.

At that point, she made her decision. With her sights on studying naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University, she began satisfying her prerequisites. Magual also took a job in a health food store and began recommending herbal supplements to her parents, "using them as guinea pigs -- with good results," she claims.

When Bastyr launched its new herbal sciences program, Mangual heard about it and soon applied. After being accepted, she lived in the dorms the first year, which she enjoyed. "I really liked having the herb garden and the rest of Bastyr's campus as my 'yard,'" she says.

She got married right after graduation, and instead of pursuing any further medical training, she has decided to take a few years to enjoy married life while working. She is also considering pursuing an MBA, which may create additional opportunities for her. "It's pretty limitless what you can do in the field, because the industry is booming," she says. "There's constant room for growth all over. Mountain Rose has grown tremendously since I started."

For anyone interested in plants and herbal medicine, Mangual highly recommends Bastyr's herbal sciences program. "The industry is developing, so there are no guarantees about what positions exist in the field, but it's a good time to jump in and make things happen for you." At conferences, she especially appreciates her degree, as her solid science-based education has prepared her to discuss herbs knowledgably with peers. She believes that as more graduates enter the field, promote their knowledge and use it to become leaders in the field, the path will be easier for future graduates. For Mangual, it's all been worth the effort.

Even Mangual's mom, who initially was skeptical about career possibilities with this degree, has visited Mountain Rose Herbs and "she can't believe it," says Mangual. "She's sold on it." Her parents – her first guinea pigs, you may recall -- both see naturopathic physicians in Chicago now and are "all into herbs." With such a persuasive person advocating for them, herbs just may receive the widespread acceptance they deserve.

Portrait of Marisol Mangual, BS ('06)
Marisol Mangual BS