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Jessica Ossyra


From performing in the circus to graduating with degrees in Chemical Engineering and Animal Science, Jess Ossyra has a diverse background that has enabled her to have a unique perspective on community, scholarship and leadership. Her time traveling with the circus taught her the value of teamwork and community. Working with people from all over the world, with different languages, backgrounds and disciplines taught her valuable skills in patience, acceptance and engendered an open-mindedness to learn from others.

After leaving the circus in 2008, Jess earned a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and Biotechnology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She got married, had a son, and moved to Tennessee, where she pursued a degree in Chemical Engineering.

While at the University of Tennessee, Jess was able pay for her degree through working multiple jobs and earning scholarships and grants. Understanding her academic and professional growth was enabled by members of the community and contributors to the University, she spent much of her free time in service to the University and Knoxville community. Her work with Rotaract, Habitat for Humanity, and other community service organizations showed her how powerful community engagement is. Upon graduating, she received the Leadership Legacy Award from the Division of Student Life for her service to the campus and the Knoxville community, was named the Society of Women Engineers Pathfinder Award winner for her commitment to the professional and personal development of her peers, and was part of her department’s winning team in the inaugural Tickle College of Engineering Integrated Engineering Design Showcase, claiming honors for the most creative project as well as the People’s Choice Award. Additionally, she served on the WomEngineers Day Leadership Council where she helped to plan a conference for women in engineering, that explored how to leverage networking opportunities and perpetuate a culture of inclusivity in both academia and industry. Outside of her volunteer work, Jess has authored multiple scientific publications and advocated for the importance of undergraduate research at high profile events such as Posters at the Capitol in Nashville, TN.

After graduating in May 2019, Jess started work as a Product Development Engineer at American Accessories International. At AAI, Jess uses her critical thinking and problem-solving skills to create innovative products, processes and solutions for Fortune 100 companies around the world. Jess credits herexperiences in service to her community, academic research and leadership roles to her success in both her professional and personal life.