Jessica Morelli Joyce grew up living in New York, Massachusetts and Kansas City, and graduated from St Rose in 1998 with a BA in English. She has spent the last 13 years working in the NYS political and policy arenas, as a writer and editor for NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Legislative Coordinator for the New York Public Welfare Association, the Deputy Director of Governmental Relations for the New York State Association of Counties, and as a lobbyist for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Jessica’s areas of expertise for lobbying and policy are public health and social services. She is currently the Committee Director for New York State Senator David Valesky. Jessica also has been an adjunct in the Saint Rose English Department, teaching the Presentation and Performance course. She lives in Albany with her husband John and their three sons, Jack (7), Henry (4) and Finn (2), and their wonder-dog, Scout (13).
Can you tell me a little about your experience at Saint Rose?
My undergraduate experience at Saint Rose is something about which I am very nostalgic. Although I was well-informed about Saint Rose (I am a third-generation alum – my parents, grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousins all attended St Rose), I came as a freshman from Kansas City, Missouri. Because my parents and brother were 1500 miles away, Saint Rose truly became my family. My freshman year, 1st floor Lima Hall friends remain some of my best friends today. I returned to Saint Rose 10 years after my undergraduate degree and completed my MA in English, with a writing concentration.
Describe a memorable moment, professor, or course from The Saint Rose English Department?
There were so many memorable moments for me at Saint Rose in general, and also with the English Department. I was a Drama minor and in many of the plays directed by Dr. Ken Krauss, who was an incredible professor. I was the first English student to study Theatre and English abroad at Regent’s College in London, and the English Department at Saint Rose with me every step of the way. Email wasn’t that common yet (!), so the professors were great about writing me real letters and helping to keep me sane. Hollis Seamon was my advisor, and she did did an excellent job of guiding me (in life and academics) with sound advice. As a graduate student, Daniel Nester and Barbara Ungar were extremely influential in helping me make the most of my graduate degree writing. I completed a poetry chapbook and full-length play.
What initially led you to choose English?
My family. I wanted a small, liberal arts college on the East Coast and Saint Rose was the perfect fit. It felt like coming home.
Do you have any advice for future English majors?
I think majoring in English as an undergrad is an amazing and solid foundation for the future. The reading, writing, presentation, and general communication required of a Saint Rose English major is directly applicable to the professional world. I do strongly recommend, however, concentrating very early on in one’s undergraduate studies, on choosing a professional concentration for the future. By this I mean thinking long and hard, as early as possible after your first undergraduate years, about tying an undergraduate English major to a professional, terminal degree such as law school, an MFA, or PhD. I think it’s very easy to get lost in the world liberal arts, which is wonderful when you are an undergraduate, but can very quickly turn into a difficult reality upon graduation.
What did you do after graduating?
After graduating in 1998, I did a short stint at the Saint Rose Admissions office (shout-out to the wonderful VP Mary Grondahl for hiring me) and then very luckily landed a job as a writer for the New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.The experience with Speaker Silver began what has been an unplanned, but fabulous tenure in the New York State political and policy arenas. From the Assembly, I became a lobbyist for 10 years, representing the counties in New York State. I also served as a lobbyist for NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Any other comments about the faculty at Saint Rose or the English Department?
This coming June is my 15-year undergraduate reunion, and it’s very difficult to believe how quickly the years have passed. Saint Rose was definitely my family for those four years, and as in any family, we all served a role and a purpose, which usually isn’t clear until much later. For the English Department, I think I served as their dysfunctional, naive teenage daughter. After 15 years of reflection, just like many adults do with their own families, I am pleased to be able to tell my former family that they did an excellent job. That despite all my of fighting and kicking along the way, I turned out just fine. And that I would like to say thank you.