JLLA founder Randi Mendes is a fifth-year PhD student in Environmental Engineering and has been president of JLLA from 2018-2020. She is a California native with a bachelor’s in Ecological Engineering from Oregon State University.
Mendes came to UCONN for graduate school as a fellow with LSAMP Bridge to Doctorate Program and decided to stay for her PhD. Currently, she researches biogeochemistry in wetland systems with the Vadas Group- Mendes says she is interested in connecting science to nature.
Outside of school, you can find Mendes gardening and staying active outdoors. She has gone hiking in Yellowstone, Zion and Acadia National Parks. She also is involved in the Student Association of Graduate Engineers (SAGE), which she says segwayed her into helping create JLLA.
“I used to help run SAGE, which led to my involvement with John Lof. The things that I have learned from running [JLLA], I don’t know how else I would have got that.”
In her eyes, JLLA is special because of how the program is tailored to suit the needs of each individual. She says that the structure allows for individuals to “grow how they want to grow.”
In terms of her own growth, Mendes says that helping build this program in addition to the curriculum has improved her leadership style.
“Working with a diverse group of individuals has helped me learn to accommodate different people and knowing when to draw the line,” said Mendes.
Through this unique program, Mendes has fostered relationships with engineers from other departments and built connections that she intends to maintain past graduation.