Graduate Receives National Science Foundation Research Fellowship

Jessica Pulliam photo

A May 2011 graduate at Eastern Kentucky University has received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Jessica Pulliam, who received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and was recognized as an Honors Scholar, will pursue a doctoral degree in sociology at Florida International University in Miami, beginning this fall.

“I chose FIU because of its strong environmental focus and because of its proximity to the Everglades,” Pulliam said. “I hope to teach sociology at the university level and continue with my research, academically and professionally, in the field of environmental sociology, more specifically environmental justice.”

Prestigious fellowships are nothing new for Pulliam, who graduated from South Oldham High School but has lived in Lexington the past 10 years. In 2009, she received only one of 20 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Fellowships awarded nationally.

Pulliam gave much of the credit to her academic advisor, Dr. Stephanie McSpirit, a professor in EKU’s Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work.

“She has encouraged me and given me many opportunities for research and publication as an undergraduate,” Pulliam said. “Those experiences are what helped to make my application strong. I was competing with current graduate students in addition to recent graduates of undergraduate institutions. I am also grateful to Sharon Hardesty and Elizabeth Underwood, both faculty in the sociology department, who have been consistently encouraging and supportive and who wrote many letters of recommendation on my behalf.”

McSpirit said the NSF “made an excellent choice” in its selection of Pulliam.

“Jessica is deeply committed to protecting the environment and local communities,” McSpirit said. “She has an easy knack for reading the academic literature and drawing out policy and regulatory implications (and) she easily combines and understands science and policy, as was clearly evident in her Honors thesis on environmental justice issues facing Kentucky.”

Pulliam also credited EKU’s Honors Program, nationally recognized for the opportunities it affords students at state, regional and national conferences. 

“The faculty members truly challenge students and encourage that they come to their own conclusions about a number of issues,” Pulliam said. “Dr. Frost (Honors Program Director Dr. Linda Frost) really pushes Honors students to push themselves and to apply to prestigious programs and grants.”

Pulliam said the $30,000 stipend that accompanies the NSF fellowship will allow her to “focus all of my attention on my studies. The NSF also offers several post-doctoral research opportunities. The fellowship will allow me to complete even more research and provide opportunities to have those results published.”

Published on May 07, 2011