The Millsaps College Department of Sociology and Anthropology is pleased to welcome Dr. Jessica Piekielek as a postdoctoral fellow. Piekielek completed her undergraduate work at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina and continued her graduate studies at the University of Arizona before making Millsaps her new home.
This semester Piekielek is teaching a course on Environmental Anthropology. She's no stranger to the subject – her research interests include conservation and environmentalism, along with U.S.-Mexican border studies. She explores some of these themes in her dissertation entitled "Public wildlands at the U.S.-Mexican border: where migration, smuggling and border enforcement collide.”
In her dissertation Piekielek examines the changing relationships among natural landscapes, the state and nongovernmental organizations. Blending analysis with ethnography, she is able to track the intersection of these relationships in transboundary protected wildlands and in debates about natural resource protection and U.S.-Mexico border policy.
Before coming to Millsaps, Piekielek taught courses at both the University of Arizona and Pima Community College in Tucson. She worked as a research assistant in multiple endeavors through the University of Arizona on topics ranging from Latin American rural cooperatives to the oral history of Louisiana oil and gas industries. She has even examined the possibilities of community-created green spaces in rural Mexico.
Her education and her work is rooted in ethnography. She served as an ethnographic assistant for a research specialist studying educational programs for immigrants and refugees and was participant-observer in her own research on public wildlands.
But Piekielek hasn't been in academia for her entire career. Before entering graduate school, Piekielek became involved with a Quaker non-profit lobby organization in Washington, DC, where she served as a policy advocate on indigenous affairs.
As the recipient of the Robert M. Netting Student Paper Prize through the American Anthropological Association in 2008 and a finalist for the Rappaport Student Paper Prize in 2007, along with numerous publications, reports and guest lectures, Piekielek has an impressive academic record. During her tenure at Millsaps she will teach a small number of classes but will have to opportunity to devote lots of time to additional research following her dissertation. The amount of time she's granted for research is one of the things that attracted her to the College.
This semester Piekielek's course load is focused on Environmental Anthropology, and in the future she would like to facilitate students exploring the Jackson community through hands-on service. She is also interested in becoming involved with Kaxil Kiuic, Millsaps College's own biocultural reserve on the Yucatan Peninsula.
When she's not in the classroom or engrossed in research, Piekielek enjoys spending time outdoors. "I'm really looking forward to living somewhere lush and green with lots of water,” she says, but will miss the Sonoran Desert.
Piekielek's post-doctoral position is funded by the Mellon Foundation and the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS). The mission of the ACS, which is made up of sixteen liberal-arts colleges in twelve states, is to make the case for liberal arts education and to strengthen academic programs of its member institutions. The ACS assists member institutions in creating and building new programs that would not be possible on their own.