Jessica Richardson: Flora and Feminism
Jessica Richardson decided to double major in philosophy and biology, society, and environment because both fields support her interests in environmental ethics and morality. During her third year she worked with the Prairie and Wetland Partnership to understand the social, environmental, and philosophic aspects of conservation. Through her coursework, she learned how people use social principles to address environmental effects and advocate for conservation issues. Richardson even now is working to help create a graduate seminar addressing environmental ethics in ecology.
After graduating in fall 2014, Richardson participated in the Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute (PIKSI) at Penn State University the following summer. PIKSI supports underrepresented students interested in pursuing philosophy to the graduate level by organizing guest speakers, hosting discussions, and assigning intensive writing exercises. Richardson actively participated in PIKSI by writing reflections on each guest speaker’s presentation and by building connections and support with the people around her. She also submitted an essay titled “Black Women in Science and Philosophy,” which she had developed during a feminist philosophy class led by Professor Naomi Scheman.
This topic directly relates to her interest in feminist philosophy and the relationship between identity and the meaning of participating in different environments. In social environments, Richardson evaluates how identity may affect how we can participate in environmental movements such as conservation, environmental justice, or food sovereignty. In her paper she expresses how identifying as a woman of color, specifically a black woman, can directly limit the ability to participate in the field of academic philosophy. This is drawn from work of various female philosophers like Kristie Doston. “The institute was one of the best experiences I had ever had, especially since I was still waffling about what I wanted to do with my career,” Richardson says.
Richardson now plans to attend graduate school and pursue a PhD in philosophy. She has accepted an offer from Michigan State University. “My education at the University of Minnesota has given me a great foundation,” she says. “And I wish to continue deepening my understanding and practices.”