From a small town and high school in eastern Connecticut, Jacqueline Cardoza (’16) wanted to attend a small college. Then she discovered the Rubenstein School, a small school within the larger University of Vermont. She welcomed the small community feel of the School in tandem with the bigger opportunities found on the larger campus.
An AP Environmental Science course in high school encouraged her to dig deeper into studies of the environment. Jacqui liked the idea that the Rubenstein School offered both environmental sciences and environmental studies. As an Environmental Studies major, she valued being part of the collective drive within the Rubenstein School and UVM’s Environmental Program to help solve environmental and social issues.
Community service in a local hospital during high school propelled her to seek service work early on at UVM. She participated in UVM’s Service Trek for incoming first-year students and worked on a crew at Underhill State Park. At GreenHouse Residential Learning Community, she started a yoga club, and as a village leader, she helped new students adjust to college residential life.
A recipient of a Donald H. DeHayes Multicultural Scholarship, in the Rubenstein School, Jacqui was appointed to the Rubenstein School Stewards. The Stewards leadership program connected her to the Dean’s Office and to the students in the School through community building and service events, building tours, and professional development workshops.
On the larger university campus, Jacqui led prospective students and their parents on campus tours as a UVM AdvoCat. “I enjoyed spreading my passion for UVM to new students,” she said.
She spent four years on the UVM Club Soccer team and participated in Alternative Spring Break for three years — first as participant and then leader of a trip to Cape Hatteras National Seashore for ecological restoration service work. As a student director her senior year, she helped to organize all 15 Break trips and led students on a trip to Florida to partner with Give Kids the World.
Jacqui applied her leadership and mentoring skills to her capstone senior project in the Environmental Program. She created a peer mentoring program for which she helped to train student mentors and to advise new students.
As a work study student for three years in the School’s Park Studies Laboratory, her involvement with parks research and visitor surveys conducted by Professor Robert Manning and staff member William Valliere inspired her interest in the social sciences.
The Environmental Studies service-learning course Children, Health and Environment turned her attention to the interactions between environment and human health in local communities. Partnering with the Burlington Lead Program, the class collected residential soil samples for lead testing to help inform the city and residents in efforts to protect children from lead contamination.
Jacqui declared her Environmental Studies concentration in environmental health and justice. A summer study abroad in Kenya opened her eyes to health and social justice issues on a global scale. She conducted surveys in Maasai communities to address water contamination issues and came home with the realization that she had learned far more from her experience than she was able to contribute.
Back at UVM, her desire to do more drove her to co-found a student chapter of Partners in Health – Engage, an international organization that raises funds and awareness for global human health. “Health is a human right and on the ground healthcare should be available to everyone,” stated Jacqui.
“With few classes in environmental health at UVM,” she added, “Partners in Health helped bridge the knowledge gap for me and connected me to the campus and to medical and service communities in holistic and interdisciplinary ways.”
A Rubenstein School Perennial Internship with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ Brownfields Redevelopment Program exposed Jacqui to how the state and communities confront and treat contaminated properties. She conducted GIS work for the Vermont Department of Health’s Environmental Health Division to track cluster locations of high lead levels in children, many of these in Vermont’s refugee neighborhoods. In conjunction with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, Jacqui developed a video to educate refugee populations about the dangers of lead contamination.
Her drive to dig deeper into environmental health takes Jacqui to graduate school at the University of Michigan for a Master’s of Public Health in environmental epidemiology.