HomepageEnvironment and SustainabilityENV major chosen for selective public health research program

ENV major chosen for selective public health research program

ENV major Susie Zelaya Rivera was selected as one of five undergraduate scholars to participate in a Jefferson University/University of the Sciences summer research program.

ENV major Susie Zelaya Rivera (2019) will be participating in a highly selected undergraduate research program this summer in Philadelphia. Susie was one of just five scholars chosen to participate in the “Developing Researchers who Improve Healthcare Value and Equity” (DRIVE) program at Jefferson University/University of the Sciences. The program focuses on clinical research that seeks to address racial health disparities through new treatment models, an interdisciplinary conceptual framework, and practical experiences. 

As an Environmental Studies and Spanish double major, with a minor in Latin American Studies (LAS), Susie is passionate about Environmental Justice issues. She believes that many of the environmental issues impact minority communities disproportionately and these communities are often left without or do not have a voice in the solutions that emerge. For her, the ENV major is a combination of not only learning about our environment but further exploring the implications, ethics, policies, and decision-making processes that sustain healthier communities.

Susie is currently working with Dr. Vanessa Volpe in her HEAL Lab, which has prepared and trained her to see how research is crucial to dismantling systematic institutions and building awareness, especially concerning the lack of essential human rights in impoverished communities. Another experience has been her exposure to the connection between science and the common good that she’s received from being a CSCG fellow. 

Susie credits her UC Faculty with shaping her integrative experiences at Ursinus and helping give her a voice. Further, she says that faculty have created spaces where essential questions are asked and where she has the opportunity to see beyond herself as just a Latina scholar. For example, Susie’s LAS adviser, Dr. Teresa Ko has supported her goals and created opportunities in and out of the classroom to think deeply about and challenge systems that structure society. She credits her ENV faculty, Dr. Patrick Hurley and Dr. Leah Joseph, for supporting the development of her own vision for Environmental Studies, and encouraging engagement with public health and environmental justice concerns, while providing her with the necessary guidance to further grow. 

To ENV Chair Dr. Patrick Hurley, Susie’s selection came as no surprise. “Since meeting Susie nearly a year ago, I’ve been continually impressed with her passion for people and her commitment to thinking deeply about the intersections of issues related to the environment, human well-being, and environmental justice.” Hurley further indicated that “Susie is taking advantage of courses across the College to forger a new path for students interested in public health and its intersection with the environment. We couldn’t be happier about supporting such study.” PSYC professor Dr. Vanessa Volpe adds “Susie brings critical trans-disciplinary thought to our lab work on health disparities. We are pleased that DRIVE recognized Susie’s characteristic drive and intellectual giftedness, and we are excited that she will continue to make a positive impact on the reduction of health inequities with training from this internship.” 


Through her ENV and HEAL work, and now with the DRIVE experience, Susie seeks to become a better community and environmental liaison. Her research deals with the impact of discrimination based on race and socioeconomic status on marginalized groups, essentially a combination of Public Health and Environmental Justice.

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