URI’s Sunshine Menezes named Rhode Island Clean Water Action Award winner

Recognized for lifetime commitment to the environment

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 26, 2024 – The University of Rhode Island’s Sunshine Menezes has worked at the intersection of science communication education, practice, and research for nearly 20 years, and though that’s only two decades, she is already getting recognition in Rhode Island for her work to protect water health for Rhode Islanders.

Menezes is a clinical professor of environmental communication in URI’s Department of Natural Resources Science. In presenting her award, Clean Water Action noted Menezes’ lifelong dedication to advancing environmental communication and empowering communities to safeguard their health, livelihoods and homes.

Menezes will be recognized at R.I. Clean Water Action’s 22nd annual ‘breakfast of champions’ on May 17 at Edgewood Yacht Club in Cranston. (Clean Water Action)

During Menezes’ 17-year tenure as the executive director of URI’s Metcalf Institute, the institute became an international hub for promoting science communication. Menezes worked to bridge the gap between scientific research and public understanding, collaborating with other local institutions to host science seminars for journalists on climate change. Through her mentorship, research, and advocacy, she has inspired others to become effective agents of change, nurturing a new generation of environmental leaders committed to positive impact in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Clean Water Action will present Menezes with its David Gerraughty Award for Lifetime Commitment to the Environment for 2024 on Friday, May 17, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the Edgewood Yacht Club in Cranston. The award honors David Gerraughty, a longtime Clean Water Action environmental activist and South County native.

The annual ‘breakfast of champions,’ at a scenic spot at the top of Narragansett Bay, often draws members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation and state legislators. Capitol TV broadcast the event last year, which also recognized URI alumni Patrick Crowley, M.A. ’21, and Carol Hagan McEntee ’76 among its 2023 award recipients.

“I’m truly honored to be recognized in this way,” Menezes says. “While I feel like I still have a long way to go to have a ‘lifetime’ impact, it’s gratifying and humbling to know that my former colleagues at URI’s Metcalf Institute and the Clean Water Action awards committee see me as having this scale of impact. I was raised by activists who taught me early on that environmental protection is not an end to itself; it’s also a way to deepen our human relationships with the natural world and with each other. If I have been able to help others think about those relationships in my work to date, I feel that I’m bringing my own learning full circle.”

Menezes is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a past Rhode Island Foundation Fellow. She earned her Ph.D. in oceanography from URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography with a focus on biodiversity in the Pettaquamscutt (Narrow) River.

At Clean Water Action’s breakfast, Menezes will be honored alongside Rhode Island Rep. David Bennett (Cranston, Warwick), Sen. Alana DiMario (North Kingstown, Narragansett, New Shoreham), Bill McCusker from Friends of the Saugatucket, the Childhood Lead Action Project, Joe Walsh from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and emerging young leader Jaylyn McNeill.

“I’m thrilled to be included among such an accomplished group!” Menezes says. “From Jaylyn McNeill, who is showing what environmental leadership looks like at an early age, to the Childhood Lead Action Project, which has been a stalwart force for change in Rhode Island for more than 30 years, this is a group of people and organizations that is leading by doing. I can’t wait to celebrate with all of the awardees.”

The event is a fundraiser for Clean Water Action; tickets are $50, available here.