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Sloan Ziegler earns place on Capitol Hill

August 15, 2013

STARKVILLE, Miss.— A Bagley College of Engineering doctoral candidate has earned a fellowship that will take her to Capitol Hill.

Jennifer Sloan Ziegler has earned a 2014 National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. She is one of 10 in the group of 50 that will serve as a legislative fellow, advising members on Congress on marine policy.

A native of Sturgis, she is only the second Mississippi State student to receive this fellowship. She says she is looking forward to living and working in Washington, D.C., for the duration of the yearlong, paid internship that begins in February.

Sloan Ziegler also said she is grateful for the opportunity to be an ambassador for the needs of the Gulf Coast.

“It is going to be really great to have someone on the Hill representing Mississippi and Alabama’s interests on what’s happening on their coasts,” Sloan Ziegler said.

Sloan Ziegler’s interest in environmental public policy was sparked during her time as a BCoE Dorman Blaine Congressional Fellow. From September to December 2008, she worked in Sen. Thad Cochran’s office where she compiled environmental news stories and sources for the senator’s use in the fast-paced atmosphere of Capitol Hill and to answer constituents’ concerns.

During that internship, Sloan Ziegler said she noticed the disconnect between the political and science communities.

“There’s a lot of environmental legislation written by people who are not experts on the subject and the technology required,” Sloan Ziegler said. “That disconnect leads to policies that can be difficult for engineers and scientists to adhere to.”

Following that experience, Ziegler dedicated the remainder of her academic career to becoming the person who does know the answers that could help improve environmental legislation. She hopes to become an expert adviser and leading civil servant in this field.

Sloan Ziegler said she knew the Knauss Fellowship would be a stepping stone to reaching her goals, but engineers usually are not chosen to participate in program. Typical recipients come from law and marine ecology backgrounds.

“I had to do something to say, ‘I’m an engineer, and look at what else I can do,'” Sloan Ziegler said.

In order to diversify her accomplishments and experience as an engineer, Sloan Ziegler has participated in many different organizations including the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Since 2012, she has been a member of the integrated ecosystem assessment committee, and management and outreach sub-committee for the Alliance.

“That work has improved my writing and communication skills,” Sloan Ziegler said. “It has helped me learn how to talk about engineering to people who are not engineers.”

Sloan Ziegler is adviser to the National Association of Engineering Student Councils and MSU’s Tau Beta Pi chapter. She is an undergraduate mentor for the MSU chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. She has also served as the MSU chapter president of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.

A member of MSU’s Engineers Without Borders program, she is manager of a project to build water wells in Zambia. She and a small group traveled to Africa this summer to investigate sites for well development next year.

Sloan Ziegler earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering at MSU. Her master’s and doctoral work has focused on melding engineering and public policy.

Established in 1979, the National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship provides educational experience to students who are interested in developing and assisting in the creation of national policies that affect ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources.

For more information about the Knauss Fellowship, visit www.seagrant.noaa.gov/knauss.

By: Mary Kate McGowan