Humans of UWL: Jessica Fitzgerald


Photo taken by Henry Anderson.

Henry Anderson, Photojournalist

When looking at how a person goes through parts of their life, it sometimes can be best understood in phases. While it is occasionally difficult to pinpoint when and where certain phases change, looking at different phases of a person’s life can lead to a further understanding of it. For example, taking time to learn how someone’s experience at college was for them can lead to knowledge about who that person is. 

The start of this collegiate phase for some starts with a spark of interest. For Jess Fitzgerald, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, it was a feeling. “[UWL] was the first school that I toured and I just kind of had a feeling; I just knew that this was the place,” said Fitzgerald.

She continued, “My mom told me that I had to tour other schools because she thought I was just excited about college in general…but none of the other schools gave me that same feeling.”

Fitzgerald, an Appleton native, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English focused on writing and rhetoric, with a minor in communication and media studies. This major was not the original plan for Fitzgerald, however.

“I have wanted to be a teacher since I was eight years old. That was the thing I was going to do and I had no doubts about it,” said Fitzgerald. 

Despite entering college as a declared history education major, Fitzgerald decided to switch courses. “Sophomore year I was taking History 200,” said Fitzgerald. She continued, “I just remember it being online, post-pandemic, and I was staring at the wall thinking, ‘I do not want to do this.’”

After this realization, Fitzgerald switched her major to what it is now the following day. The reason for the change to English in particular was because of a hobby she picked up during the pandemic. 

“I started reading a lot during the pandemic,” said Fitzgerald. Initially, Fitzgerald talked about how her desire to read left her because of the high school’s reading curriculum. In her words, she said, “All of the books sucked and I didn’t find any enjoyment in it.”

Fitzgerald continued, “So after I got back into reading how I wanted to read, I fell back in love with the concept of reading and just books in general.” 

It is from this love of reading that Fitzgerald helped guide herself into her major. “My mom made a comment, ‘You can work in publishing,’ and I said, ‘You are right, I could.’ So I switched my major the next day,” said Fitzgerald. 

The goal for Fitzgerald, after having this conversation with her mom, is to someday work in the publishing and editing of fiction books. “If I am editing a book, I am going to have to read it,” said Fitzgerald. She continued, “I tried reading non-fiction books that you can get at Barnes & Noble and I just couldn’t do it; it was very boring. But with a fiction book, I can just tear through it in a day, I just love it.” 

While Fitzgerald does have some aspirations to become a writer, she prefers writing to remain a hobby. She said, “I don’t want to be a writer as of right now but I think that helping other people tell stories is really cool.” 

With her undergraduate college chapter coming to an end, and work in publishing appearing later down the road, Fitzgerald doesn’t intend to be done with college anytime soon. When asked where she saw herself one year from now and what her plans for the future are, Fitzgerald said, “One year from now I am hoping to have applied to grad schools.”

“I don’t know if it is just the classes I took but, I just don’t feel qualified to just jump right into the publishing industry right now,” said Fitzgerald. She continued, “I was looking around and there are actual degrees in publishing. There is a school in Boston where the degree is Writing and Publishing Fiction.”

Ultimately, Fitzgerald said that she uses school, and her love of it, to help prepare herself for the job field she is trying to get into. 

Despite the fact that the phase of Fitzgerald’s life that includes UWL is coming to an end, looking back on it helps to understand how she spent her time here. Along with working on regular school work, Fitzgerald worked as the arts and entertainment reporter for The Racquet Press. 

“The main things that I look out for are theater performances,” said Fitzgerald. Other things that Fitzgerald looks out for are, as she said, “whenever the art building has a gallery open, like the AIDS quilt, I did that.”

She continued, “I think that the arts, and especially stuff that happens in the Center for the Fine Arts, I think you are only really exposed to it if you are a part of it…so, whenever I am around in the Center for the Arts, I look around and see what would people never know is happening unless I wrote about it.”

In addition to being a part of the Racquet, Fitzgerald, along with being a gymnastics coach at the local YMCA, has been a member of the Concert Choir here at UWL during all 4 years that she has been here. “Concert Choir is an auditioned choir,” said Fitzgerald. She continued, “On the website, it says it is open to all ages, but primarily upperclassmen. If that had kept me from auditioning, I don’t know if I would have ever wound up doing choir.” 

“My time with the UWL choir has been the most consistent part of my life…I have had a lot of turbulence in my life,” said Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald continued, “The only thing that didn’t change was choir…If I didn’t audition and didn’t do choir, I can’t imagine what I would be if I didn’t have that.” 

Fitzgerald leaves incoming freshmen and any new faces at UWL with some words of advice. First, Fitzgerald said don’t come in declaring a major. In her reasoning for this, Fitzgerald said, “I feel like there is so much pressure, especially for those like me who knew I wanted to be a teacher…come in undecided; there is so much to learn.” And secondly, in relation to her experience with the Concert Choir, Fitzgerald said, “Try to do new things; and even if it doesn’t go the way you think it will, at least you tried to do it, it could change your life.” 

To read Fitzgerald’s articles, click here.