Don't Be Nervous--Alumni Jess Vallee-Vasquez

Jess Vallee-Vasquez is an Alumni of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She graduated with an undergraduate degree in Biology with a concentration in Ecology Conservation and Environmental Biology and a minor in Sustainability Studies which she just added during her senior year.

Following graduation, not only did Jess obtain a job related to her major for the summer, but she also received admission into graduate school and obtained an apartment in Pittsburgh. This summer she worked at Spruce Run Campground in New Jersey as a Visitor Advisor. Her duties entailed regulating rules, keeping the park clean and working with others to make sure the land is maintained properly. Jess started looking for a job in her field dueing the spring of her junior year and stated that the recent government policy changes in regards to the Enviromental Protectency Agency made it very difficult since a lot of programs and parks have had funding cut. Her research and studies here at IUP helped her stand out amongst applicants.

This fall, Jess moved to Pittsburgh and began attending Chatam University working to obtain a master’s degree in Sustainability along with a Masters of Business Administration.

When asked what she is looking forward to most about post undergrad life she responded, “being independent and starting to experience life as an adult.” Even though, Jess has loved being at IUP she says that she was ready to move on as graduation approached. She feels passionate about her education, field of study and potential jobs and can’t wait to become more involved in them and really explore the possible opportunities.

Making good use of her time at IUP, she became an involved student and belonged to four different fraternities. She was a member of Phi Sigma Pi, a gender inclusive national honors fraternity; a member of Sigma Alpha Lambda, another honors fraternity; Delta Alpha Pi, an academic fraternity for students with disabilities; and Beta Beta Beta, an honors fraternity for Biology majors. Jess attributes her involvement in these programs to a lot of the reason why she is who she is today. Phi Sigma Pi helped her to make friends, teach her inclusiveness and push her to strive to be her best both academically and socially. A recent member of Delta Alpha Pi, Jess states that, “They have worked with me and taught me just because I have a disability doesn’t mean that I can’t succeed.”

As a student with dyslexia, her time here at school was difficult but the services offered at IUP made all the difference. “The professors were very understanding, and helpful, they got it. If I needed to look at the notes again, they’d make me a copy. If I needed extra help all I had to do is ask. I remember I once had a math teacher in middle school who said that I wouldn’t get anywhere in life but I proved him wrong."

Throughout her time at IUP Jess made leaps and bounds through her social and professional career. She had been fortunate enough to present a lot of her research in large research forums with the help of Dr. Travis who pushed and encouraged her. She has also had friends help her and push her to become more accepting and diverse.

When asked if she had any advice she would like to share, she responded with “don’t be nervous. If  there is something you want to do then do it. Everyone in the place or club you want to be in was new once and nervous just like you so they will understand. Don’t think that you can’t because you don’t know anyone.”