History and Government, 2006
Jessica Zimpfer graduated from Daemen in 2006 with a degree in History & Government. A transfer student, she came to Daemen after one year of college, in search of a small liberal arts school. One open house experience later, Zimpfer was convinced that this was where she wanted to be.
She was an exceptional student, receiving academic honors from the History and Government department, and upon graduation, Zimpfer received Daemen’s highest academic honor, the Charles Lumsden Award for the student with the highest GPA at graduation.
During her years on campus, Jessica developed a passion for women’s studies courses, even though, at the time, Daemen did not have an approved Women’s Studies minor. She began taking the available classes in the subject, and then, encouraged by two of her professors, Dr. Penny Messinger and Dr. Lisa Parshall, she applied for the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership Women’s Retreat for Young Women. Zimpfer calls the weekend she spent at the retreat “a defining moment.” From then on, she knew her life would include advocacy and women’s rights.
Since graduating from Daemen, Jessica has completed her Master's in Social Work at the University at Buffalo. There, she co-founded a feminist group for graduate students, now called UBSoFem (the UB Society of Feminists).
“She exemplifies what we as a department strive to instill as educational goals among our students, but also because of her passion in behalf of gender equity and human rights,” said Penny Messinger, an associate professor in the History & Government department. “As the person responsible for coordinating our courses in women's studies, I see many students who respond with enthusiasm to the values and viewpoints taught in our courses, but think that they sometimes have difficulty in figuring out how to pursue a career path that integrates their principles and abilities. I believe that Jessica's educational goals and career choices serve as a wonderful example for other students to be able to see how to act upon these values, standpoints, and principles in their own lives.”
Zimpfer is currently employed as a social worker in the Refugee Resettlement Program at Jewish Family Service of Buffalo & Erie County. She works with newly arrived refugees to acclimate them to the United States by finding them housing, employment, or education.
“Jessica has done what we would hope that all of our students will do,” said Messinger. “She has taken the skills/competencies of our core curriculum and of liberal arts disciplines in particular – critical thinking, contextual competency, communication skills, civic engagement – and has put them to work in behalf of her strong principles to make the world a better place.”
While she continues to do just that, Zimpfer isn’t satisfied. She still would like to work with people with disabilities, and to perhaps work toward policy changes with a women’s rights organization.
“I am determined to find a career where I am actively working for human rights and justice, advocating for equality,” Zimpfer said. “That started in a small way at Daemen and grew into a major personal and professional interest.”
What did you like best about your program?
I liked how accessible the professors were. They took a real interest in their students and were always available for consultations or questions or just to bounce ideas off of. I also absolutely loved the program courses, particularly the courses in women’s history, but it was my interactions with my professors that kept me motivated.
Why did you choose Daemen?
I transferred to Daemen after my first year of college because I was looking for a small liberal arts college. I went to an open house and instantly felt comfortable on campus.
Were you offered a job before graduation?
I was not offered a job before graduation but I also was not actively looking. I was set on going to graduate school.
What was your favorite experience at Daemen?
I really, really loved completing my senior project, as nerdy as that sounds. I loved my topic, loved doing the research. I was also surprised at how resourceful the Daemen library was; it seemed small at first glance, but carried a multitude of resources on my topic. It was really well equipped.
You had a real passion for women’s studies at Daemen. How did that develop? How has that influenced your life and career choices?
Initially, I was drawn to the specific lessons or sections in my books that covered women’s issues and became more and more interested in how women shaped history and were shaped by it. I began taking classes like women’s history and women in art and fell in love. Dr. Messinger and Dr. Parshall suggested that I apply for the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership Women’s Retreat for Young Women, and once I read a description of the weekend I knew I had to get there somehow. I got accepted for the retreat and that weekend was a major growing experience for me. I was typically a student who was very, very quiet in class and there I had to do an impromptu speech in front of twenty-five people. It was overwhelming but pushed me in ways I had never pushed myself before. Since that weekend, I knew I somehow needed to be connected to women’s rights and advocacy throughout my life. It was quite a defining moment. After speaking with a friend, I knew continuing my education and going to graduate school for social work was the best way for me to accomplish this. While in graduate school, I co-founded a feminist group for graduate students, now called UBSoFem (the UB Society of Feminists). Though my interests have expanded a bit, I am determined to find a career where I am actively working for human rights and justice, advocating for equality. That started in a small way at Daemen and grew into a major personal and professional interest.
Where do you work now? What are some of your responsibilities?
I currently work as a social worker in the Refugee Resettlement Program at Jewish Family Service of Buffalo & Erie County. I work with newly arrived refugees to help them acclimate to life in the United States by finding them housing, employment, education, and assisting them in applying for social security cards and welfare, among other responsibilities. I also provide orientations for new families, enroll children in school, and complete mental health assessments and make referrals to our agency’s mental health clinic when appropriate.
What are your personal and professional goals?
My personal goals are to travel and see as much of the world as I can and experience other cultures, to write, read as much as I can and continue to be an activist. My professional goal is simply to keep doing things I love and am passionate about. I would love to become more involved with the self-advocacy movement and work with people with disabilities and/or work for a women’s rights organization and advocate for changes in policy.
What is your lasting memory of Daemen?
When I think of Daemen, the first thing that comes to my mind is growth. I felt like I really had the opportunity to take classes that I was genuinely interested in like the History of Jazz and a literature class in Fantasy and Science Fiction. I learned a lot of material from my professors but I also learned a lot about myself and my interests. It definitely helped me determine what I wanted my future to look like and I still draw on the constant encouragement I received from my professors at Daemen to help me get there.