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Vanessa Venturini ’08, M.S. ’11

Empowerment Through Environmental Education

As Vanessa Venturini received her M.S. in environmental science and management, she looked forward to a career building awareness of the natural world.

“I got my first taste of environmental advocacy as a high school student through Save the Bay when I did a beach clean-up; it was one of the most fulfilling things I had ever done,” said Venturini.

Venturini has worked with the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, helped with the restoration of the Pawtuxet River, organized beach clean-ups through Project Clean Sweep, and taught environmental lessons to elementary school students: “I’m passionate about working with people to protect the environment. I like the idea of empowering people.

“I learned through my coursework how people and development have had such a negative impact on biodiversity and the environment, and I believe that through education we can help alter perceptions and practices to be better for the planet.”

As part of her degree program, Venturini undertook a research project with the Rhode Island Natural History Survey and the URI Outreach Center to encourage the use of native plants in home landscaping and ecological restoration projects. She studied model programs from around the country, interviewed nursery owners and program coordinators, and designed a training program for nursery professionals that will be launched this year.

At the same time, Venturini has spent the last three years working at the URI Outreach Center coordinating youth programs, training volunteers, developing curricula, and teaching students about the environment. She will continue these activities after graduation and start a program for the new community garden at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center that will encourage children to become gardeners while teaching them about biodiversity in urban spaces.

“I always thought I was an English and history type person, but I’m also fascinated by the science side of things,” Venturini said. “Eventually I’d like to branch out and maybe one day be the director of a nonprofit environmental group.”

—Todd McLeish

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