New Student Profile: Jessica Webb
Jessica Webb is one of this year’s mid-career students at FES. Because she has been working in the environmental field for more than seven years, she will spend only a year at the school to get her MEM degree. Prior to coming to FES, she worked for a number of years in Latin America, first for a small nonprofit in Costa Rica focused on community conservation. In that area, most of the tropical forest was either privately owned or considered dangerous. Jessica worked on an educational program to make the forest more accessible, especially to young people. She also organized a community census, which helped migrant workers gain title to land, and set up a community ecotourism program.
After this, Jessica worked for the Rainforest Alliance in Costa Rica for seven years, working on sustainable tourism and sustainable agriculture programs throughout the region. Her job as Development and Communications Manager required her to work with ministers of agriculture and tourism from eight different Latin American countries. Most recently, Jessica worked with EcoLogic, a Latin American community forestry initiative based in Cambridge, Mass., using GIS technology to establish a community forestry project in Oaxaca.
After so many years in the field, Jessica decided to enrich her academic background in order to work more effectively. Last year, she did a mid-career masters program at the Fletcher School at Tufts. While she was there, she realized that a deeper understanding of the natural sciences would help her to do her work in development and rural conservation. FES was appealing to her because it “has a really good balance between natural science and policy,” she told me. The great diversity of classes available at FES was large part of what attracted her to the school. “The other big part of it,” Jessica continued, “is that… as a mid-career student, it’s a good opportunity to step back from the day-to-day work and talk about ideas. I almost see it as a sabbatical.” She’s interested in the potential of REDD+ to address conservation and poverty and wants to think more about that specifically. She views her year at FES as a time to spend time thinking about—and hopefully answering—these sorts of big questions.
Conservation and poverty alleviation in Latin America is Jessica’s primary focus, but she hopes that being at FES will allow her to learn about what’s happening in other parts of the world and “share lessons learned” with other students. She sees the knowledge available within the FES student community as a valuable resource. When asked what her favorite thing is about FES so far, Jessica said, “The people,” and then laughed and told me she figured that’s what everyone said. “But really! I’m very impressed by the experiences that people have had and what they bring to the table.” The rich and varied perspectives of different students are a definitive part of the experience of FES, and it’s an experience that is inevitably replicated in the real world, where environmental professionals must find people whose perspectives both challenge and complement their own.
As a final question, I ask Jessica to tell me about the strangest job she’s ever had. For two years after college, she told me, she toured for two seasons as a manager of the Big Apple Circus. She was in charge of logistics, staffing, and moving the show, which included twelve horses, an ostrich, and 150 people, from location to location. Though the job seems out of place on a resume full of environmental jobs, she said it actually served as a valuable entrance into non-profit administration. The circus had many community outreach programs, including a “Circus of the Senses” for deaf and blind children. Overseeing these outreach programs led her, albeit indirectly, to doing environmental outreach in Latin America.
Regardless of the path that has brought them to FES, each student at our school is passionate about the work that they are doing for the environment. We hope you’ve enjoyed this series of new student profiles. Look for more blog posts from the admissions office in coming weeks!