SLA Spotlight: Dr. Jessica Boscarino
Whether she is planning a class session, analyzing legislation, or tracing the development of an environmental controversy, Jessica Boscarino addresses complex questions by drawing upon a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Now in her third year of teaching at the College, Professor Boscarino regularly teaches American Government, Introduction to Public Policy, and Environmental Policy. Her scholarly work has appeared in Policy Studies Journal, Publius: The Journal of Federalism, Review of Policy Research, and numerous edited anthologies.
Q: What experiences led you to become interested in environmental policy?
A: My interest in environmental issues goes back to a high school Earth Science class in which I did a project on acid rain. My family has had a cabin in the Adirondack Mountains of NY since I was born, and I was shocked to learn about the devastating effects of acid rain on the soil, trees and lakes in that area. I followed my interest into an Environmental Studies program at Middlebury College in Vermont, where I really appreciated the interdisciplinary approach to studying environmental issues. I quickly figured out that it was the political angle that fascinated me the most. Along the way, I’ve been lucky to have several wonderful mentors – mostly women, interestingly! Every day I learn something new and love what I’m doing.
Q: What kinds of questions are prominent in your current scholarly work?
A: Lately, my work has centered on the intersection of environmental and energy politics. I have long been interested in the environmental community’s stance on nuclear power, especially given growing concern over climate change and the nuclear industry’s claims that the energy source is “green.” These developments have given rise to a new dynamic in environmentalism that at times divides the community. Most recently, I have been exploring the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, and looking at the policy response (or lack thereof) in the U.S. My focus is on the role of the environmental interest group community, and the rhetoric they advance when lobbying for an anti-nuclear agenda. These topics are fascinating to me because I am environmentalist that was raised by a nuclear engineer. I’ve been inside a control room, and I have peered face-first into a pool of spent nuclear fuel. I like to think that gives me a unique perspective!
Q: What kinds of teaching techniques have you developed to engage students in these issues?
A: I’m always looking for ways to get students to participate in class. When you teach about politics, how can you not have lively discussions?!? I find that formal debates are a great way to get the ball rolling, and after that, everyone feels comfortable jumping in. Then, the problem becomes, how do I get a word in edgewise? I’m still working on a method for designating students as discussion leaders for a class and getting them to guide the conversation. So far, it hasn’t been as successful as I’d hoped, but I’m not giving up yet. And I’m actively soliciting suggestions!
Q: Beyond teaching and research, what are your interests?
A: I am happy whenever I’m outdoors, so I love to run, hike, swim, and ski. This summer, my husband and I took my 3-year old on his first camping trip in Maine. You can also always find me either traveling or dreaming about doing so. Reading is another big hobby of mine, and this summer, I enjoyed so many great books. One standout was The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. It is one of those books that leave you a little breathless at the end.