Jenna Santacroce’s path to the University of Mississippi might look a little different than most students, but her success here inspires other students transferring to UM to aim big. Before coming to Oxford, Santacroce was a student at Bergen Community College in New Jersey, where she was the president of the honors college, the vice president of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, and founder of a sustainability association. It was her position in Phi Theta Kappa that ultimately brought her to Mississippi, as she would travel to Jackson’s PTK headquarters to receive training for national conferences. The University of Mississippi representatives, along with other Mississippi colleges, visited Santacroce’s team and introduced them to the programs offered; UM caught her attention the most, and she began the transfer process.
“If it were not for my transfer counselors, Anna Lauren Heavener and Amie Bernstein, the very welcoming PPL faculty, Mrs. Melissa Jones, or my helpful PPL peer, James Hirsch, it is likely I would not have chosen to attend UM.”
Before deciding on UM, Santacroce says she considered pursuing a degree in environmental conservation, but after an experience during a Plastic Pollution and Coastal Conservation internship in Thailand, she realized that she needed to change courses. “After spending hours clearing plastic off beaches just to return the next day to see the waste had replenished itself, it was clear ocean plastic pollution needed to be addressed from a preventative approach.” From there, Santacroce decided on UM, particularly the Public Policy Leadership major and an Environmental Studies minor, to continue her journey towards a career in ocean conservation advocacy. “I decided the most effective way for me to protect the environment was through public policy,” Santacroce explains.
Since she joined Public Policy Leadership one year ago, Santacroce has worked alongside former United States Senators and some of the Capitol’s most influential lobbyists in Washington. During her first semester at UM, Santacroce worked as a student researcher for the National Sea Grant Law Center at the UM School of Law, where she investigated ways to maintain healthy coastal environments, coordinated data, and helped facilitate educational webinars. It was in her second semester that she moved to Washington, D.C. to complete an internship with Crossroads Strategies, a federal relations and advisory firm. As of late, Santacroce has interned with Clean Ocean Action, an ocean advocacy non-profit organization in New Jersey. Currently, she interns with the Office of Sustainability on campus, where she facilitates all institution-wide recycling in the Grove during home football games.
Santacroce says that she has also grown personally during her time in PPL, and that the atmosphere encourages confidence in decision-making and verbalizing unique ideas, while the diversity of the PPL professors offers a wealth of variegated knowledge at students’ fingertips. She also credits her status as a transfer student for much of her success at UM. “At my community college, I developed a system to keep track of my deadlines, study for exams, and balance extracurricular activities. When coming to UM, this already-existing system prevents me from getting overwhelmed and enables me to perform well.” Santacroce also acknowledges the confidence that her involvement with Phi Theta Kappa gave her, as well as the network of friends in PTK who also transferred to UM. “Transferring to the University of Mississippi for PPL was one of the few best decisions I have made for myself,” Santacroce explains, “Consider all of what PPL offers: the personal attention, the real-world experience, the extensive network.” She suggests to anyone considering a major in Public Policy Leadership to visit the Trent Lott Institute, and to not get discouraged by an initial lack of experience in public policy. “Before transferring to UM, I had no previous experience and virtually no understanding of public policy. Within my first few weeks of being a PPL student, and after some hard work, I fit right in with my peers.”
After graduating the University of Mississippi, Santacroce plans to continue her education at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington where she will pursue a master’s degree in Coastal and Ocean Policy. After that, she hopes to work for an ocean advocacy organization and work on policy campaigns that aim to protect the ocean.