Islander Environmentalist Trades Lab Coat for Ball Gown at Miss Texas Pageant

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Wearing different hats is common for college students, but for one Islander, the possibility of adding a crown to the mix could have been the cherry on top. Although she didn’t get a crown, senior environmental science major Sandra Espericueta, represented Nueces County while also impacting the public with her educational platform during the Miss Texas Pageant, in Houston on September 1.

“I truly believe my unique set of circumstances as a female Hispanic researcher, animal trainer, and government policy worker set me apart from the other contestants,” said Espericueta. “I hope I inspired young people not to let perceived limitations keep them from trying new things and reaching big goals.”

As an Islander undergraduate researcher in  Dr. Toshiaki Shinoda’s lab, Espericueta focuses her studies on marine and coastal resources. She also spent the summer evaluating policy in Austin, as part of a summer internship for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. At the pageant, Espericueta paid homage to her background as she represented an “Everything Environmental” platform, speaking on the significance of the field.

“This was my first time participating in something like this, but because I have a diverse background, I confidently represented the topics and educated people to help them understand the importance of environmental and marine research,” she said.

Adding to her varied passions, Espericueta is also employed at The South Texas Botanical Gardens & Nature Center, as an integral part of their Animal Husbandry Program. Employees of the center encouraged her to participate in the pageant and covered her entry fees to show their faith and support. She expressed her gratitude for all the support she received before the competition.

“I was flooded by support by friends, professors, and family, and I learned that winning isn’t the only path to success,” said Espericueta. “I don’t think I would have had the courage to go on this crazy adventure without them. It was such a valuable experience and I’m glad I decided to just go for it.”

She completed her participation in the pageant, upholding the Miss Nueces County title, and a created a lasting impression of fearlessly breaking the mold.

“With this experience, I have gained more than a platform for environmental issues,” said Espericueta. “I gained personal confidence and gratitude for my life experiences and my future at the Island University.