University Medal Finalist Betty Sousa

May 07, 2007
Betty Sousa


This year, CNR student Betty Sousa was one of four finalists for the University Medal.

Betty Sousa: Making the connection between public health and the environment
Hometown: Davis, Calif.
Age: 23
Major: Nutritional science: physiology and metabolism

Favorite class at Cal: My Sustainable Gardening seminar....


Favorite class at Cal: My Sustainable Gardening seminar in the fall of my freshman year, for letting me get my hands dirty and providing me with a solid grounding to begin studying and wondering about the environment and food, and the things that tie it all together. Organic Chemistry for really changing the way I look at the world around me. The Human Diet and Earth Resources and Society for connecting so many different ideas and putting them into such a relevant and essential context; Medical Anthropology for providing me with a new way of thinking about the role all of the science I've been studying plays in our world. I could go on to talk about so many more – there have been too many great classes to pick just one.

Turning point: A year and a half after the levees broke in New Orleans, relief organizations in the city were still calling for volunteers to help with recovery and rebuilding efforts. Though I could only spend two weeks there this winter, I was moved by the amazing people I met and the tireless work they have undertaken, and continue to undertake, there. However, I also came to more fully comprehend the violence of government inaction and the importance of continuing engagement between local communities and organizations/individuals everywhere. This network of cooperation is even more vital when the media and government officials allow such continuing atrocities to go unnoticed.

Latest accomplishment: Last Friday night, some of the 6th graders at camp (for the Diabetes Prevention Project) taught me the dance moves to one of their favorite songs, "Walk it Out." I finally gained their approval, reaching a level of semi-reasonable competence with the footwork.

Most important lesson learned: The ever-evolving understanding of the many privileges I have, that they are not shared by everyone, and that it is my responsibility to utilize those privileges in order to work towards greater equity for those whose access to such privileges has been denied.

Favorite campus hangout: Slacklining by the Campanile, watching the ships on the bay and the neighboring construction cranes from the fifth-floor balcony of McCone Hall, eating figs in the Student Organic garden, or lately (and all too often) working away in the VLSB computer lab.

Post-graduation plans: This summer I'm very much looking forward to traveling around the southern and northeastern United States with a good friend, exploring new places and working in/talking to people about the food-ways and health-ways of places I've never been before. And next year: hopefully traveling around other parts of the world, doing more of the same.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Likely back in school, hopefully working excitedly on something related to public health and climate change, and in a place with good company, where I can grow and eat fresh vegetables on a regular basis!