That new New

I have exciting news, friends! In a few short months, Mark and I will wrap up our adventure in New Zealand and head home to the States whereupon we’ll be moving to…



That’s right folks, we’re heading to The Big Easy! Neither of us has ever been to NOLA but moving somewhere sight unseen seems to be our M.O. We’ve heard nothing but good things about the city and are looking forward to experiencing it all. If you’ve been, I would love to hear what your favorite things to do/see/eat are!



Why New Orleans? Well before moving to New Zealand Mark made me a deal that since he chose NZ, I get to choose the next place we live. He can get a job virtually anywhere so the world was my oyster. Pretty sweet deal, eh?

And while I can’t top New Zealand (wouldn’t even try) it has been a long-held goal of mine to pursue a Masters degree, so what better time than now?

I searched high and low for the right program and after checking all the boxes to apply, I am delighted to share that I’ve been accepted to my dream program at Tulane!

In the Fall of 2017, I will begin a Masters within the Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy. Ultimately, I want to work in post-disaster reconstruction. What does that mean? Well essentially (and eventually), I’m going to rebuild communities affected by disasters – natural or manmade. I absolutely love building homes for people and there’s never a more critical time for the security and belonging a home provides than following a disaster.


Port-au-prince, Haiti 2013


Going back to school has been a long time in the making and to say I’m excited is an understatement (I’m also nervous but that’s normal, right??). I can trace my interest in this field back to nearly a decade ago when I saw a presentation by an urban planning professor about his involvement with rebuilding New Orleans post-Katrina. Something inside clicked and I decided to pursue a career in construction. It’s rather poetic that I’ll be studying in the same city that sparked my interest in the field.

After 6 years working in the construction industry, where I worked with incredibly talented people to build beautiful homes like this


and went to Haiti a couple times with my colleagues to build homes for families affected by the 2010 earthquake and subsequent mudslides


I am looking forward to finally going back to school.



Applying to graduate school is a tedious process under normal circumstances and even more so when applying from the bottom of the world. I am forever grateful to a bunch of people who helped me apply and I’d be remiss not to give them a shout out.

First and foremost, I am beyond grateful to Mark and his unending patience and unwavering support as I second and triple-guessed myself over every step of this process. Not just the applying part, but the million “what if I don’t get in” scenarios I subjected him to. If I don’t get in, maybe we could move to Thailand! Telemedicine is a thing, yeah? or If I don’t get in, I’ve heard Austin is a cool city. and Hey, we have friends in Seattle… maybe we should follow them there. 

Madison, you are my hero for schlepping 20 lbs worth of GRE study books halfway around the world. (That’s not an exaggeration, one of the books weighed 5lbs alone.) Thanks to you I re-learned how to find the area of a parallelogram…and then promptly forgot, but I knew how when I needed to and that’s what matters.

To Jon & Henry, Carli (and her brood), and my siblings – thank you for helping to break up the monotony of studying for the GRE with dance breaks conducted over FaceTime. We’d simply put on a song and dance our booties off together across continents, oceans, and multiple time zones. Seriously my favorite thing ever.

Thank you, Yevy, for reading and critiquing my statement of purpose. You are a gifted editor and my writing improves with every stroke of your proverbial red pen. I can’t wait for the PJMY + J reunion in NOLA next year!

Giant thanks to Craig, Patrick, and Randy for writing and mailing letters of recommendation on my behalf to my BFF Laura. I don’t know what you wrote but it did the trick!

Laura, thank you for collecting all of the requisite items and assembling them into presentation-worthy order for submission. You’re the only person I know who has special resume paper on-hand and I love you for it.

I am grateful to Jen for her obsessive mailbox checking while we awaited a decision. I think we were equally relieved and excited when the favorable answer came back.

Lastly, a huge thanks to my mother. Without her, I’d be nothing.

Now, who’s coming for Mardi Gras in 2018!?

9 thoughts on “That new New”

  1. So proud of you in every way! You have been true to your passion, diligent in the search process, driven and determined to excel, open and enthusiastic about new opportunities and humbled and grateful for love, encouragement and help along the way. Count us in for New Orleans and just always being by your side.
    Love you and of course very happy avd proud!
    Helene, Rob, Jenny and Michael


    1. Awww Lene, you’re going to make me cry. Thank you for all the love and support, it means more than you know. Love you guys and cannot wait to see you in New Orleans and/or PC!


  2. Awesome, Jessica! What an adventurous life, I hope to cross paths sometime. Maybe when you come back to UT to visit your family? Safe travels!


  3. HUGE Congrats!!!. The food is so good, the people are colorful and have always shown me a warm welcome there. You’ll do great in school and that program is will help push your great skill set to the next level. If you were a couple years sooner I might expect to see you at an event but I think I’ll be retired and watching on the TV with everyone else at that point. We can’t wait to see you guys next summer. B&L


  4. I am so proud of you, you know this. Way to do the scary things. You are so cool and your life is so exciting. And pretty soon we will be able to share the most delicious sandwich ever created…the muffuletta. Mmmm. Life is good.

    …are there any mountains to climb in New Orleans?


    1. I can’t wait for this muffuletta you speak of! You know all the best food. I’m perpetually hungry without you around.

      Don’t think there are any mountains but there are some lakes nearby… you’re not afraid of alligators, are you? I’m told they’re harmless.


  5. So exciting! Congratulations to both of you!

    I am so sorry we haven’t connected. I am travelling the next few weeks but definitely want to catch up soon. Miss you and think of you often!

    You go girl!



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