Jess grew up in Minnesota where she was a standout multi-sport high school athlete, earning multiple all-conference, all-region, all-state and team MVP honors in both basketball and volleyball before being named Miss Basketball and Volleyball Player of the Year for the state of Minnesota her senior year.

Following high school graduation, Jess pursued academics and volleyball at the University of Notre Dame. While originally recruited to set, Jess played both outside and right side for the Irish before settling into her permanent position as a middle. Jess racked up numerous awards during her four seasons at Notre Dame including various all-tournament, all-conference, all-region, conference player of the year and two-time team MVP honors. She was the first Irish volleyball player to join the 1000 kills/1000 digs club and to earn All-America and Academic All-America honors and she still ranks in the Irish Top 10 in various categories for aces, kills, digs, blocks and double doubles (kills/digs). Jess earned an undergraduate degree in business, graduating early with honors following her senior season, and was nominated for the prestigious annual NCAA Woman of the Year award in 1992, an award that honors senior female student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in the areas of academic achievement, athletics excellence, service and leadership.

Following her playing career, Jess went on to spend six years as an assistant volleyball coach at Indiana University and at her alma mater the University of Notre Dame where her primary responsibilities included recruiting and various aspects of positional and technical training. Jess was able to pursue and complete her law degree while coaching and, following graduation, she practiced corporate health care and regulatory law in Minnesota before returning to her passion in college athletics and joining the NCAA as an Associate General Counsel in 2017.

Jess lives with her family in Fishers, Indiana. Her son plays lacrosse and hockey at Culver Military Academy and her daughter is a freshman at Fishers High School and part of the Team Indiana 15-1 Elite team.