Longtime Goal for UToledo Cosmetic Science Degree Becomes Reality 

April 15, 2024 | Graduate News, News, UToday, Alumni, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
By Tyrel Linkhorn

Jada Alcantara was a seventh grader in New Jersey when she decided she was going to come to The University of Toledo and major in cosmetic science and formulation design.

That commitment never wavered, even if some of those around her helpfully tried to suggest she consider other options — like the high school guidance counselor who tried to give her a packet of information on other colleges.

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: UToledo recognizes the Class of 2024 with a series of stories featuring students receiving their degrees at spring commencement.

“I said ‘I don’t need this. I’m going to Toledo. That’s final,’” she said. “I was so gung-ho on Toledo.”

The future that Alcantara manifested for herself will culminate on May 4, when she earns her UToledo bachelor’s degree in cosmetic science and formulation design.

Dr. Gabriella Baki, director of the undergraduate cosmetic science program and an associate professor of pharmacy practice, said Alcantara’s story should serve as an inspiration to prospective college students.

“Make up your mind and get the work done — that’s an example that encourages anyone, regardless of their selected field of study,” Baki said. “She is a great example to show that you can achieve anything with dedication, passion, courage and support from your network.”

As a youth, Alcantara had an interest in beauty. When her older brother started looking for colleges, she thought she’d give it a shot too.

A Google search led her to the then-new and one-of-a-kind Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program at UToledo.

It was a perfect fit for her interests, and she set out to make it happen.

“I did everything I could to prepare,” Alcantara said. “I knew what my plan of study was since I was a sophomore in high school. I took AP calculus, psychology, this, that and the other, and I came in with a semester worth of credits down. Toledo was my ambition all through high school.”

As a high school junior, she saw campus for the first time.

She was impressed. And equally important — or perhaps more important — her mom was too.

“It actually reminded me of where we live here in New Jersey,” Faith Alcantara said. “I went to Seton Hall for my undergraduate studies, and Toledo reminded me of Seton Hall, just much larger. It really felt like home. It didn’t feel much different than Jersey, which made me feel good.”

UToledo cosmetic science and formulation design senior Jada Alcantara rides in the Homecoming Parade.

UToledo cosmetic science and formulation design senior Jada Alcantara, who graduates May 4, was highly involved as a Rocket including as a member of the 2023 homecoming court.

Some parents might question the seriousness of a preteen declaring they know what they’re going to study in college and where they’re going to study it, particularly if it’s more than 500 miles from home.

Faith Alcantara, an educator herself, didn’t.

“Jada has a strong disposition,” she said. “That’s what she said she wanted to do. All right, let’s make it happen. What kind of experiences can we have from eighth grade until it’s time to go to make it a better proposition. Figure out how you get there and how you pay for it, and she’s been very resourceful getting scholarships every year. She’s had the college experience that I dreamed that I could have.”

From the moment she set foot on campus as an enrolled student, Jada Alcantara found ways to get involved.

She got a job as a tour guide her first semester on campus, planned the homecoming parade with Blue Key National Honor Society in 2022, was Panhellenic president in 2022, served as the Songfest emcee representing Blue Key in 2023 and was a member of the 2023 homecoming court.

Alcantara also is past president of the Mortar Board National Honor Society and a social media intern in the Division of Enrollment Management.

“Jada finds different opportunities on campus to spotlight and we’ve seen a lot of growth in our social media as we focus more on student engagement,” said Miracle Mason, a marketing development analyst who oversees Alcantara in Enrollment Management. “It’s been great working with her, seeing her excitement and passion for the University. It shows through in her work.”

Jada Alcantara poses for a photo on the UToledo campus.. 

Jada Alcantara was a seventh grader in New Jersey when she decided she was going to come to UToledo and major in cosmetic science and formulation design.

Alcantara already has lined up a post-graduation job at one of the best-known cosmetic firms in the world, L’Oreal, where she interned last summer in sales.

In her full-time role as a research and innovation management trainee, she’ll complete four six-month rotations with various teams, getting experience research, formulation, manufacturing and more before applying for a senior scientist or senior chemist role with the company.

“I’d be grateful with whoever gave me a job, but being at L’Oreal means a lot,” she said. “I know it’s been hard for Toledo to break through at some of these companies, even though we have the prime program to prepare students for these roles. I’m just hoping I can do some advocacy throughout my time at L’Oreal and it will open the door to more UToledo students coming through the program.”

Baki, who developed UToledo’s cosmetic science program and has overseen its growth over the last decade, said Alcantara was a trailblazer in that regard.

“She was the first student from our cosmetic science program to get an interview from L’Oreal, which lead to her internship offer,” Baki said. “She was very pro-active and intentional during her internship making connections with people at L’Oreal and paving her path, which — in my opinion — played a huge role in the job offer she received much before graduating with her bachelor’s degree.”

A natural leader and a great team player, Baki said Alcantara has the intangibles for success.

“Getting a high-quality education is essential but is only part of the puzzle when it comes to standing out from job application pool,” she said. “At the end of the day, you need to pitch yourself and allow others to realize and appreciate the unique sets of skills, knowledge and perspective you offer. Jada is great at breaking down information to the audience’s level and help them understand the impact she can make if given the green light.”

Looking back on everything she did to get here, and everything she’s done since she arrived in the fall of 2020, Alcantara knows she made the right decision all those years ago.

“I’ve had a great experience at UToledo. I don’t know exactly what I expected, coming here, knowing no one, pretty much starting my life completely over, but it’s been rather shocking all that I’ve been able to do while I’m here,” she said. “I would have never thought this would be who I come out as four years later.”





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