By Allison Campbell-Jensen
For those looking for new frontiers, asking questions is essential. It also helps to ask the right questions: Jessica Reza does.
While still a U of M undergraduate, Reza heard Erik Anderson of University of Minnesota Press speak during an undergraduate seminar. Following the discussion, Reza went to talk with him directly.
“Do you have any internships available?” “Yes,” he said.
And after that, “it just started to snowball,” says Reza, who began working at the U of M Press right out of university and now serves as assistant business office manager.
She’s a bit of a U of M triple threat: English, Spanish, and Technical Communications combine in her B.A.; she shone on the Ivory Tower literary magazine publication team as an undergraduate; and, more recently, she earned an MBA from the Carlson School of Management.
Yet, you might not recognize her superpowers right away, says her friend Cassandra Grandahl, because Reza is rather humble.
Curiosity fuels her
“[S]he always wants people to come with her on the ride. … She has this natural curiosity to learn more. I think the best people do.”
— Cassandra Grandahl
“She is not one to toot her own horn,” says Grandahl, who became friends with Reza during their undergraduate years. Yet, “she always wants people to come with her on the ride. … She has this natural curiosity to learn more. I think the best people do.”
Grandahl recruited Reza to serve on the board of the Friends of the University of Minnesota Libraries. Partly, she thought Reza would enjoy the bookishness of the other board members. And, Reza would bring another of her talents to the board: “She reads everything!” Grandahl says.
Ask Reza about her favorite books and she quickly responds: “It changes based on what I’ve read lately.” Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code” and many other books? “Pure readabiltiy,” Reza says. A literary suspense novel, “Notes on an Execution” by Danya Kukafka? “Beautifully written.” She also recommends works by Huraki Murakami, a Japanese author with an international reputation.
Reza serves on the events committee of the Friends board. “The events are just so fun and eclectic,” she says. “And now I have a little better idea of the time and effort that go into them.”
Recently, she was the mic holder for Q & A after a performance by poet Mary Moore Easter, standing out in her red sweater, yet standing aside as those with questions spoke. Even when one interlocutor revealed a very recent experience of racism, she remained poised and ready to serve. She is proud that the Friends are bringing diverse voices to the literary community.
“It’s just lovely to be a Friends of the Libraries board member,” she adds.
Step by step, learning and making
Reza, like her friend Grandahl, also is downright handy. In particular, the native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, has been creating her own clothes. Recently, she successfully matched a plaid skirt on its seam. No easy task, that, yet Grandahl says her friend has a natural eye for constructing clothing, making her own patterns.
And those crafty hands also have green thumbs! Seeing the less-than-glorious shape of Grandahl’s house plants, Reza offered a bit of advice.
“You have to be patient with yourself,” Grandahl remembers. “That’s how you learn.”
A pertinent reminder for all of us, from a person of achievement!