March 31, 2014
As a high school student in in Canandaigua, New York, Jessica was fascinated by the intersection between environmental science and economics. Wanting to learn more, she enrolled in State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Several years after graduating with a bachelor’s in environmental science and policy, along with a minor in management science from Syracuse University, she decided to pursue a graduate education in water policy.
“Water is obviously much more plentiful in the Northeast, and it’s governed differently there, so I wanted to study how water is allocated and managed under scarce conditions in the Western US,” Jessica says.
Specifically, Jessica became interested in the disconnect between the scientific and political realms. She wanted to research that phenomenon as it related to Western water management, and develop methodologies to deliver scientific information to water managers and policy makers to more accurately inform their decision-making.
After consulting with professors from her undergraduate program and reaching out to professors at Arizona State University, she decided the School of Sustainability was the best fit. Not only would the school’s master of science program build on her background in biophysical sciences and policy, but it would provide her with access to related fields like water policy, climate science, political science and law.
The opportunity to be part of a developing graduate program was an additional attraction, and Jessica enrolled in the school’s second graduating class in 2008. During her first semester, she took a water law course that further solidified her interest in the laws and policies that manage Western water.
“It was a difficult course that I took with mainly second and third year law students, but it’s where I learned the most about the legal history and case law that govern how we share and manage our surface water resources in the West,” Jessica says.
Jessica now works as a water planning analyst for the Central Arizona Project (CAP), the largest source of renewable water in the State of Arizona.
“Because CAP serves customers in all sectors across the three most populous counties in the state, I knew they had a large role in state water policy as well, and I wanted to be a part of that,” says Jessica.
Analyzing large datasets related to water shortage preparedness and developing a model that simulates water supply and demand scenarios are just a few intriguing aspects of her position. She also spends a good deal of time connecting with customers and stakeholders, ensuring they are included in discussions and decisions that may impact them.
Jessica credits her position at CAP in part to her thesis research on reclaimed water generation and reuse in Maricopa County, which she conducted under the guidance of her advisor and committee chair, Dr. Rimjhim Aggarwal. Reflecting on the skills she had, then focusing on the skills she needed in order to get the job she ultimately wanted, also contributed to her success.
To students enrolling in the graduate school, Jessica says, “A two-year master’s degree program goes by very quickly, so it’s necessary to have a clear focus on what you’re interested in and what you’d like to accomplish. If you can articulate that, the staff and professors at the School of Sustainability will support you to make it happen.”