In her ‘Voices From the Field’ article, Benitez-Gonzalez describes her journey and learning the Importance of effective risk communication.

Heather Triezenberg

Photo of graduate student Alexandra Benitez-Gonzalez.

Alexandra Benitez-Gonzalez

Alexandra Benitez-Gonzalez’s journey from Puerto Rico to graduate school at Michigan State University (MSU) was highlighted in the August 2022 edition of Global Environmental Health Newsletter. Fisheries and Wildlife Faculty Abigail Bennett and Mark Rey recruited Benitez-Gonzalez to come to MSU for graduate school during a recruiting trip to University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras in Fall 2019. Benitez-Gonzalez started at MSU in the Spring Semester of 2020 – just as the Covid-19 was becoming a global pandemic – working with the Great Lakes Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health community engagement core, through Michigan Sea Grant, MSU Extension, and University Outreach and Engagement. She also was a participant in the Demmer Scholars Program.

Benitez-Gonzalez’s research focused on public perceptions of risk associated with harmful algal blooms (cyanobacterial blooms) in Michigan lakes and efficacy of risk communication approaches. She recalls that “listening to people and their stories about how they interact with the water gave me a better understanding of their social and cultural lenses for processing information important to making health choices, and this understanding shaped my research.”

“The topic of public and environmental health risk communication during a global pandemic certainly made it relevant research” said Mark Rey, graduate committee mentor.

“Mentoring graduate students and conducting community-engaged social science research during COVID-19 pandemic was challenging” said graduate committee mentor Heather Triezenberg, community engagement core lead for the Great Lakes Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health and Associate Director of Michigan Sea Grant.

Benitez-Gonzalez defended her thesis in fall 2022 and graduated with a Master of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife. “Alex is an excellent communicator and I’m thrilled to see her continue in a doctoral program with MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences Department of Advertising and Public Relations,” said Abigail Bennett, mentor and graduate committee chair.