Born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, Sandra Ocampo moved to the U.S. in 2000 and earned a B.S. in business management in 2008 from Northeastern University. After working 11 years as a central manager and financial administrator for an investment management firm in Boston, she was burned-out.
“Finance did not have meaning for me anymore,” she says. “I wanted to do something where I could feel that I was making a difference in people’s lives and experiencing joy and fulfillment while doing it.”
It took her two years to figure out her new path.
Ocampo’s inspiration emerged from her struggle with weight management. She took charge, ate healthier and exercised every day. Her co-workers took notice.
“The combination of feeling unhappy with my career and my colleagues acknowledging my healthy habits was an epiphany,” says Ocampo. “I realized then that in my future career, I should help others live healthier lives.”
She enrolled in the Master of Public Health
(MPH) and Dietetics program last fall and expects to complete the program in May 2024. After graduation, she will take the Commission on Dietetic Registration exam to become a registered dietitian. Once she passes the exam, Ocampo plans on working in a clinical setting while planning to open her own private practice.
“I believe in having a healthy relationship with food, improving nutrition knowledge and preventing common chronic diseases,” says Ocampo. “The MPH Dietetics program provides me with the opportunity to make a more significant impact not only on individuals, but also on communities.”
One of those communities is UMass Lowell. Ocampo received $10,000 from the 2023 Sustainability Engagement and Enrichment Development
(S.E.E.D.) Fund to implement a reusable container program on South Campus. The project, which emerged from an assignment in her Food and Nutrition Management class, aims to reduce plastic waste and transport costs associated with food service.
“Our class observed the food service operations at Aramark Dining Services to identify areas of improvement related to sustainability, waste and the environment,” says Ocampo.
While researching ideas, she came across Boston University’s recently introduced reusable to-go-container program.
“My mind shifted, and I realized that it would be more effective if I could use as an example a program that was already running and adapt it to UMass Lowell,” she says.
She ran her ideas by Craig Thomas, assistant director of the Office of Sustainability
, before writing the project proposal. With support from Thomas and Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences faculty members, Ocampo expects that the program will be up and running in the fall.
“Receiving the grant is a testament to my learning experience at UML and being able to apply what I learned in my classes to an actual project,” says Ocampo. “I am proud of this accomplishment, because it is the product of my dedication and commitment to my career.”
Ocampo chose the MPH Coordinated Program in Dietetics because it combines the academic and supervised practice experience needed to qualify to become a registered dietitian.
“I felt confident that the MPH program would offer me a solid path to my future of becoming a registered dietitian,” she says.
As a graduate student, Ocampo says the interactions with faculty members have been supportive and more like peer-to-peer relationships.
“Knowing that I can continue networking with faculty members and receive their support after graduation is terrific,” she says. “All the projects are tailored to provide me with the tools I need to be successful as a professional.”