University of South Florida


a headshot of a man

Nardo Muñoz, MPH, CPH. (Photo courtesy of Muñoz)

From first-generation immigrant to EHS leader

USF College of Public Health (COPH) alum Nardo Muñoz was born in Lima, Peru and moved to Hollywood, Fla. as a child ready to pursue his dream of higher education. 

“I am a first-generation immigrant and was the first one in my family living in the United States to go to college,” Muñoz said. 

Muñoz said he toured several schools with his parents, but when he got to USF’s campus he knew that is where he wanted to be. 

“I felt like USF offered the most diverse student culture in comparison to other schools.” he said. “That attracted me the most to USF and I felt welcome right from the start.” 

"My family has many medical professionals," he said. "Initially, I thought I'd join them but realized it wasn't for me after the first semester of classes. An advisor suggested I try geology, but that didn't suit me either."

His sister, also an USF alumna, encouraged Muñoz to try public health classes during her first semester at COPH and it fit just right. 

“The guidance of my instructors Laura Rusnak and Dr. René Salazar solidified for me that I belonged in public health,” he said. “From that moment on, as soon as I got that mentorship with them I could see myself in public health.”

“It is more than just a job for the professors at COPH,” Muñoz added. “They are passionate about teaching and I think that's why the college is so successful because they have professors and staff leading the front lines for the students. ”

Muñoz was active in community outreach and opportunities to be involved during his time as a student.

“I was part of the undergraduate public health club and was a member of the Alpha Psi chapter of a Latino fraternity, Lambda Theta Phi. I remain actively involved with the fraternity and recently served as the director of expansion on the national executive board,” he said.

“The most challenging thing for me and likely for many first-generation immigrant students was pressure,” Muñoz said. “My parents brought me to the U.S. to succeed and I felt the need to deliver. I am thankful because I wouldn't be where I am today without my education.”

Muñoz said his most memorable student experience was being chosen as a speaker at his undergraduate class ceremony in spring of 2013 where he graduated with his bachelor’s in public health with a concentration in environmental health and safety.

“The COPH is great because it supplies those connections and opportunities,” he said. “They told me exactly where to go to secure a safety internship with the now Zoo Tampa. That unpaid internship led to a paid job internship as an environmental, health and safety intern at Sea World.” 

After being offered a scholarship and a grant to continue his studies, Muñoz graduated with his master’s degree in occupational safety from the COPH in 2015. 

Transitioning into the professional workplace, Muñoz has worked as an environmental, health and safety (EHS) specialist in the e-commerce space with Amazon and in the construction engineering space for wastewater treatment with AECOM. 

a man wearing a hard hat

Munoz performing a walkthrough of a plant during his time at AECOM. (Photo courtesy of Munoz)

Currently, Muñoz is the senior environmental, health and safety leader at Chewy Vet Care. 

“I oversee the EHS program and compliance mission of their retail veterinary practice network across the United States,” Muñoz said. “I have rebuilt programs from fulfillment, pharmacy, corporate and photo studios where we take pictures and video of the animals. The commercials are filmed internally by Chewy at their corporate headquarters, so I handle that from a compliance perspective.”

a man presenting in a meeting

Muñoz (center) presenting  EHS information to Chewy’s veterinary practice leadership. (Photo courtesy of Muñoz)

“Recently, Chewy announced publicly the decision to venture into veterinary care. We soft launched our first clinics for friends and family in South Florida and Denver, where employees can bring in their dogs. We plan to scale quickly,” he said.

For this project, Muñoz is the designated leader of compliance and environmental health and safety for Chewy vet care. 

“We are focused on making sure our Chewy vet care business is safe for our employees,” Muñoz said. “This could mean typical workplace hazards like step ladders and boxes on the floor, or it could be requiring animal restraints, protecting against blood-borne pathogens, making sure personal protective equipment is provided, etc. in order to be compliant with Occupational and Safety Administration requirements.”

“I hope my journey is a good example for other students who are also first-generation immigrants,” Muñoz said. “To them I say, don’t give up. The opportunity is always there if you look for it.” 

Fast Five

What did you dream of becoming when you were young?
I wanted to be a pilot.

Where would we find you on the weekend?
You'll find me at any USF basketball or football event with my wife Nicole and our two kids. We are season ticket holders.

What is the last book you read?
“A Land Remembered” by Patrick D. Smith was a favorite book from high school. 

What superpower would you like to have?

What is your all-time favorite movie?
Independence Day. The original.

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Welcome to the USF COPH news page. Our marketing and communications team is entrusted with storytelling. Through written stories, photography, video and social media we highlight alumni, faculty, staff and students who are committed to passionately solving problems and creating conditions that allow every person the universal right to health and well-being. These are our stories.