By her bedside, Fushcia-Ann Hoover still has the iron table lamp she welded as a 13-year-old in her junior high industrial technology class. “I like working with my hands,” Hoover said.
Now an assistant professor of environmental planning at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, her passion as a “maker” drew her not only to engineering but also to business. In 2020, she founded EcoGreenQueen LLC to help people better integrate environmental justice into their work.
Hoover began her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota in 2005. During a summer abroad course in Germany studying renewable energies and her research on ethynyl as a McNair Scholar, she thought she’d found her calling. But when she graduated from college at the height of the Great Recession, the environmental engineering jobs she wanted required either a master’s degree or substantial work experience.
Instead, she took a job as a tutor in her hometown at Saint Paul Public Schools while researching graduate schools. “I used that time to really try and focus on where and what to study,” she said. Working as a tutor had a lasting impact on her career: Hoover noticed that her students, many of whom were people of color, faced challenges both inside and outside the classroom that made it difficult for them to excel. She had a realization that would serve as a guiding principle in her master’s and doctoral work in ecological science and engineering at Purdue University 2 years later. “Whatever it was that I was going to do, if it wasn’t going to somehow make [the students’] lives better, then I wasn’t interested in doing it.”
Hoover embarked on transdisciplinary research at Purdue, work that would pave the way to consulting in her specialty of urban green infrastructure. In her dissertation, she not only conducted an analysis of watersheds but also interviewed Black residents in Chicago’s South Side and city planners about Chicago’s green infrastructure practices. She sees a dire need for geoscientists to include communities in projects and critically examine power structures.
During her second postdoc, Hoover founded her consulting company to assist professionals, researchers, and government officials looking to incorporate environmental justice or interdisciplinary methods into their business, scholarship, or city plans.
Looking back at her career, she’s proudest of how she’s upheld her values. “I don’t have to leave out race or leave out water,” she said. “I get to bring everything in and say, ‘No, this is all important…and we’re going to talk about it.’”
—Jenessa Duncombe (@jrdscience), Staff Writer