Haub Alumni of the Month: Tiffany Zezula & Jessica Bacher

2003 Alumni & Land Use Law Center Staff

Jessica Bacher and Tiffany Zezula have a long history together. Both Jessica and Tiffany began their studies at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in 2000. During their time at Pace as students, they both immersed themselves in work with the Land Use Law Center and Professor John Nolon. After graduating in 2003, Jessica and Tiffany both joined the Land Use Law Center in a different capacity – as staff members. For the last seventeen years, they have both grown exponentially along with the Center. Jessica is now Executive Director at the LULC and Tiffany is Deputy Director.

How did each of you decide to attend law school and Pace in particular?

Tiffany: I was an Ecology Major at Tulane so was very passionate about conservation, so decided a law degree could help me pursue a career that could truly impact environmental preservation issues. Pace’s environmental program was a perfect fit to accomplish my goals.

Jessica: I was a business major undergrad at University of Florida and became very interested in environmental issues so decided to minor in environmental studies. I particularly became interested in coastal and ocean issues and wrote my thesis on Australia’s Ocean Policy after travelling there for a study abroad program.  When looking at law schools, I was immediately attracted to the strong environmental program and Pace so applied and received the Presidential Scholarship.

What was your involvement with the LULC like during your time as a student?

Jessica: Tiffany and I met our first year in law school in Professor Dorfman’s Crim Law class and immediately discovered our common interests (and also our common study habits, so formed a study group that lasted all three years and continues today!). Tiffany, in her role as President of ELS, hosted a speaker from TNC on coastal issues. Professor Nolon contributed to the discussion by providing land use solutions to coastal management issues and we were hooked on land use. We both took all the land use courses, worked at the Center, and even co-authored a PELR article called The Beach Zone that outlines land use tools for coastal resiliency.

What was your path after law school and how has it evolved over time at the LULC?

Tiffany: Professor Nolon was a mentor to both of us and we wanted to continue careers advancing the mission of the Center. We joined the Center officially as Graduate Fellows and within five years took over joint leadership. We recently celebrated our 17th year at the Center.

What are some of the projects and initiatives you are working on at the LULC?

Jessica: Today we continue our passion for coastal resiliency. We are working with EPA and FEMA on local government tools for resiliency and post-storm recovery. This also includes working with NY State on the Climate Smart Communities program and furthering it through training of local government officials with support from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation, NY Sea Grant, and NY DEC.

How does Land Use Law impact communities?

Jessica: Land use plans and regulations shape human settlements; in so doing, they can increase energy consumption and vehicle miles travelled that worsen climate change, or create sustainable neighborhoods and communities that mitigate and adapt to climate change. Our work at the Center focuses on education for the local community leaders to ensure that the decision makers have the tools and techniques to further sustainable development.

How has the LULC influenced Westchester and beyond?

Tiffany: During our tenure, we have jointly trained over 3000 local land use leaders not only in this region, but across the country in over 30 training programs. We have also passed this knowledge on to hundreds of our law school students over the years. We are so grateful for our time as students at Pace and all that we learned at the Land Use Law Center and we are so eager to pass that same knowledge and experience on to current students.

You are both very involved in your community – why is that important to you?

Jessica: For over eight years we have co-led a local Girl Scout troop. We think it is important to inspire the next generation of women, teach them about the outdoors, respect for the environment, and how to give to back to the community. Our troop has earned Bronze and Silver awards for their actions and we are proud of the work we have all accomplished together.

You have been quite successful as a duo at the LULC, what other ventures have you led together?

Tiffany: Our partnership in law school has expanded to an over 20 year partnership and friendship that includes not only directing the Center, but also running a Girl Scout troop, a book club, hosting baby showers for each other, joint birthday parties for our daughters, being co-class moms for our daughters’ class, teaching continuing education classes on couponing, co-teaching law school classes, joint presentations at national conferences, taking Yale School of the Environment students on international field trips, co-publishing books and articles, and more. It all started at Pace!