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Jessica Blythe

Jessica standing in front of a classroom


The project I’m working on has to do with students’ self-efficacy, whether someone feels they can reach or obtain a goal and the factors that go into it. I’m looking at how new students are feeling as far as their self-efficacy to succeed in academia based on sort of the trauma environment that we’re living in, whether it’s the pandemic or the racial tensions. We haven’t found anything out yet; we’re still developing the instruments. Basically, we’ll be looking at how students felt before this as far as how well they can succeed in academia versus after this. It’s not my normal line of research, but I think having research be responsive to what’s going on in the world around us is important.

If you weren’t working at WVU, what’s the most likely alternative?

I would be a high school agricultural education teacher. I would probably still be in my classroom in Florida. If I hadn’t left to get my Ph.D. and train agricultural educators, I would probably still be in my high school classroom because I did love that very much.

Moment you knew what you wanted to study?

I still don’t! I struggle with how early we make students commit to an educational track and it’s getting earlier and earlier. I always try to remind my students that life is a journey. If you had asked me when I was a high schooler if this is a job that I’d ever be doing, I would have laughed at you. My undergraduate is in horticulture, and then I decided I really liked teaching. I liked working with the people more than I liked working with the plants, so I switched over to education. A long answer would be that I never knew what I wanted to study, and I’m sure I still don’t - and that’s part of being a lifelong learner.

Moment you knew your current role was right for you?

My first day in the classroom with WVU students. I knew I wanted to help train future teachers and educators, and I think what makes WVU so special is the students themselves - their hard work, their dedication and their joy for what they’re doing.

Favorite part of social distancing?

I spent the summer social distancing with my grandmother in Connecticut. I’m very grateful that I have a job where I can take my computer, pack and really work from anywhere. That time with her was utterly amazing.

Least favorite part of social distancing?

I missed the end of the semester with students and all the things that we would have normally celebrated together. As they get jobs, normally they would have come by and we’d give a big congratulations for moving on and securing that position. For me, it’s the actual human connection of getting to see and interact with my students and with my peer faculty. Zoom is no substitute for the real thing.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

There are so many cool places that I haven’t experienced yet. I loved my time living in Australia. I loved my time in West Virginia because it is wild and wonderful. I love Connecticut; that’s where my family and my best friends are. I think it’s absolutely perfect and idyllic, but that’s also some of the nostalgia from where I grew up. But then I look at pictures around the world and think, I could live on a beach in the Philippines. I could live on a dairy farm in Ireland. I could live in the hills in New Zealand.

Just for Fun

Favorite book: Hacking School Discipline

Favorite movie/tv show: Calamity Jane (with Doris Day - the original), Gilmore Girls

Favorite Spotify playlist/band/song: My Discovery Playlist from Amazon

Favorite local restaurant: Bacon, Bourbon & Beer (what I call "3B")

Favorite local activity: Cooper's Rock, Wow Factory