Jessica Penrose staff spotlight photo

Staff spotlight- Jessica Penrose

Jessica Penrose is the Executive Director of the Graduate Program of Environmental Policy and Management. Jessica started with EPM in 2017 as the Program Coordinator where she advised students and coordinated the day-to-day program management. In 2021, Jessica was promoted to Director of EPM. She has a Master of Human Relations and a Master of International Relations from the University of Oklahoma, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Friends University. Prior to joining UC Davis, Jessica was an Academic Advisor for the Community College of the Air Force at Spangdahlem AB, Germany. 

What does your job entail?

As the Director of EPM, I handle all of the external facing aspects of this program. I work to cultivate and grow relationships between our program, organizations and professionals. Experiential learning is a crucial piece of our curriculum, so creating more opportunities to obtain paid practicums and quality experiences is essential. I work closely with the Program Coordinator and Faculty Chair to oversee the day-to-day operations of this program, which includes everything from advising, curriculum, scheduling, admissions, budgets, recruitment, web design, social media, and grants. It varies a lot, and I really enjoy it. 

What inspired you to pursue the career you have today?

I actually got started in the higher education field sort of by coincidence. After my partner and I moved to Spangdahlem AB, Germany, I was looking for a job and a friend recommended that I work in the base's Education Center. My first job was as a Field Representative for Central Texas College Europe. I loved it! I eventually transitioned from that job into an Academic Advisor position with the Community College of the Air Force. I love the interactions with students and being able to help them achieve their academic goals. I knew that I had found my niche and wanted to stay in the academic space after I moved back to the States. 

How do you engage with students?

I advise and mentor students on professional and career development and practicum opportunities. I also help connect students with our network of alumni and other professionals who they might share interests with. Though, my background as the Program Coordinator puts me in an unique position where I can advise students on other topics more specifically related to their degree if the Program Coordinator Jessica (JC) is unavailable! 

What makes EPM unique from other programs?

There are a few things that make EPM unique. In my opinion, the community that we try to cultivate is a huge thing that sets us a part. We put a lot of time and energy to plan events for our students, staff and faculty to get to know each other outside of the classroom. We have a saying that we share with incoming students at orientation- "enter as students, exit as colleagues". It has been very true for many of our graduates. There are a lot of opportunities for students if they choose to engage. I think that the students that do participate in the extra curricular opportunities get the most out of the program and develop the most lasting relationships. Other than the EPM community, a few things that stand out to me is the proximity of UCD to Sacramento, the interdisciplinary nature of UC Davis that allows students the flexibility to pursue electives they are interested in and the smaller cohort sizes.

Describe how EPM has grown since the inception in 2017.

I love this question! EPM has grown a lot since 2017. We started with a cohort of 7 students, and this year we have 59 students between the two cohorts. We now have contracts with several agencies to allow for paid practicum opportunities. We have an alumni network that grows each year, we have added significantly more faculty from different departments to our advising roster, increased the number of dedicated staff and we have strengthened our relationship with the UC Davis Institute of the Environment. We now support three student committees, Social Committee, Diversity Committee and AEP at UC Davis Student Chapter. We have grown our External Advisory Committee to include 19 professionals, who provide guidance to the program and mentor our students. We work hard to continue to grow our program, expand our resources and make this program a welcoming and inclusive place to be!

What's something most students don't know about you?

I am from a small town in Calaveras County- home of the Jumping Frog Jubilee that commemorates Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County". In 2010, I ran for and was crowned Miss Calaveras Princess - a part of our official duties was to participate in the frog jumping competition. I'll note that no frogs are harmed in this process and are returned to their natural habitat. Here's a picture for fun:

jessica jumps a frog