Meet A Lucerna Author: Sophie Jess

Sophie will present her research on panhandling in Kansas City at the Lucerna Symposium on March 11. For more about Sophie’s work, keep reading.

What is your Lucerna project about?

My Lucerna project is about panhandling in Kansas City, specifically on the Country Club Plaza. I examine laws restricting panhandling as well as the attitudes of Kansas City residents towards folks who panhandle.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I grew up in Kansas City and have been visiting the Plaza since I was a little girl. I have also seen firsthand the negative attitudes some people have towards panhandlers, and it has always rubbed me the wrong way.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

One challenge of this project was examining local ordinances regarding panhandling and the constitutionality of them, which was difficult considering I don’t have a law background. It was also very important to me to be as accurate as possible, so I worked hard to make sure my arguments could be supported. I wrote this essay two years ago when I was a sophomore, so over the summer and winter of 2020 before I submitted my final draft, I had to make sure my information was still current. I tried to figure out what happened with new ordinances that were on the table when I originally wrote the essay, which can be hard to do with local legislation.

What is your advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna?

I would say read the previous volumes of Lucerna to get an idea of what sort of essays get published. When I was a freshman, I thought it would be so cool to be published in Lucerna, but I didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute. Through my regular coursework I ended up writing two essays that I submitted and were published in Lucerna. I never would have known to submit them had I not been encouraged to do so by my professor.

What are your professional plans or goals?

I graduated last December, and I am working full-time at an inpatient mental health facility. I am also in the process of applying to graduate programs for counseling psychology. I would like to continue to work in the mental health field, and eventually earn a Ph.D. and perhaps teach at a university