Sustainability Student Spotlight: Jessica Eggleston

Jessica Eggleston received her Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from Indiana University Southeast in December 2013. After graduating, Jessica started her graduate education at Kentucky State University in 2017, she later transferred to the University of Louisville to complete a dual degree. Jessica is currently completing a  Masters of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, concentrating in Sustainability and a Masters of Public Administration here at the University of Louisville. Jessica is currently finishing her last semester of coursework and thesis.


1. What brought you to the University of Louisville?

I started graduate school in 2017 at Kentucky State University. When I learned about the program at UofL I applied and transferred. The UofL Sustainability program gave me the flexibility to take law, policy, ecology, planning, anthropology, and sustainability courses. This interdisciplinary approach is a fantastic way to develop skills essential to working with diverse stakeholders.

2. Specific areas of research (how you chose this research, why it interested you):

Legacy contamination in urban community gardens. This is important from a public health standpoint, as well as an environmental justice one, especially in post-industrial cities like Louisville.

3. How would you describe your area of study and specific research to your friend/family member unfamiliar with your field?

My thesis research looks at soil in community gardens. Louisville is an old city and the soil in our urban areas is blown in, tracked in, and occasionally intentionally brought in. Certain elements and chemicals can hang around for a long time. Some of the worst things tend to persist in air, water, and soil. One example is lead. The US banned leaded paint in 1976, but it took nearly 20 years for companies to eliminate it from gasoline. There is no safe level of exposure to lead for pregnant women or children. Community gardening is valuable on many levels (healthy food access, environmental education, social gathering space, etc.) so we need to ensure safety for all participants.

 4. What made you go into this field of study?

A passion for science and the intersection of public health and policy.

 5. Awards and Publications:

Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Louisville – scholarship - June 12-15, 2019

Earth Stewardship Initiative Fellowship in conjunction with the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and

United States Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE) Annual Meeting - August 11-16, 2019

University of Louisville, University Fellowship - August 2018 – August 2020

2018 Kentucky State Fair, First Premium - garlic, Vegetables and Melons

 6. How do you think this advanced degree will change your role in society?

 I aspire to bridge science and policy.

 7. Long term goals and aspirations:

I would love to find and restore the best car I have ever owned, a 1987 Caprice Classic station wagon. It rode like a marshmallow on wheels and was the perfect camping vehicle. It was a lovely shade of yellow on top and woodgrain on the bottom.

 8. What accomplishment, academic or otherwise, are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the many lives I have lived in a short time. It took me 17 YEARS to finish my undergraduate degree. In that time, I lived in a bunch of cool apartments and even a camper on an animal sanctuary. At one point, I lived in my car with 3 dogs. I always had a full-time job and many, many side hustles – pet sitting, landscaping, invasive plant species management, and was a booking agent for nationally touring musicians. I remember feeling that I couldn’t possibly succeed. Despite the challenges along the road, I am grateful for the experiences that prepared me for today.

 9. What has been your favorite part of the graduate school experience at UofL?

Two things:

1. The opportunity to connect with academics, practitioners, and folks working in Louisville.

2. The students I have been fortunate enough to work with. Learning from folks from various backgrounds and from different generations gives me hope for our future

 10. What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you dealt with this challenge?

Time management. I make lists daily – deadlines, appointments, self-care, and family time are priorities. I limit distractions like social media. Attainable goals and incremental progress is the only way to survive! Often the most important goal of the day is to be home to read to my daughter at bedtime.

 11. Have you ever participated in a PLAN workshop or Academy offered by the Graduate School? If so, how has it helped you in your graduate student journey?

Yes! I attended a workshop on non-faculty careers in higher education last semester. It was tremendously informative. I was able to follow-up with Dr. Rodems for guidance with resume/CV development. She is a fantastic resource for students and a true asset to the university

 12. Family life:

I am married to a wonderful human who has graciously supported this educational adventure. We are mamas to a precocious 3-year-old daughter, 2 dogs Oliver and Frank, and a cat Lesa. We love to be outdoors and cook together.

Fun Facts

A talent you have always wanted: The ability to sit through a movie. Or sit still at all.

Favorite book: Too many books to list. Favorite writers: Alice Walker, Michael Pollan, Mary Roach, Wendell Berry, and Andrew Solomon

Favorite quote: “Sometimes you need a little crisis to get your adrenaline flowing and help you realize your potential.” ― Jeannette Walls, the Glass Castle

"To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

 “When the Pleiades and the wind in the grass are no longer a part of the human spirit, a part of very flesh and bone, man becomes, as it were a kind of cosmic outlaw, having neither the completeness nor integrity of the animal nor the birthright of a true humanity.” Henry Beston, the Outermost House

Role Model: Dr. Catherine Daley! She is a powerhouse of smarts and never stopped telling me that I should get it together and go back to school.

Favorite Vacation Destination: Cherry Lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Spending days with family - no cell service - log rolling, kayaking, fishing, and sleeping under the stars.

If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? Probably taking more naps.


Source: Student Spotlight: Jessica Eggleston (UofL Graduate School, September 2019)