HOMETOWN: Mahtomedi, Minnesota
Double major in Mathematics and Geography with aCertificate in Gender and Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Project Coordinator with the Health & Aging Department of Rush University Medical Center
What was the moment that made you realize you wanted to study public policy?
I work in healthcare program development and I’ve done policy advocacy, but I’ve been working for five or six years since undergrad, and haven’t had any formal training yet. I’ve learned everything on the job, which has been really cool, but I really want the formal education piece. A lot of what I do is coordinate programs— that has a lot of administrative work with it that takes a lot of time in order to make these projects run well. And I definitely appreciate that, but I sort of realized a year or two ago that going back to school will give me stronger quantitative skills, and make that work easier for me. Also, something that is unique about my experience is that from August 2015-May 2016, I put all my stuff in storage and traveled for nine or ten months. I did a long road trip around the Western U.S., then I went to Eastern Asia for two months, and then South America for two months. It was wonderful in so many ways— but I knew in my head that once I got back from that, I would want to work for a year and then go to school. It just all naturally came together.
Were you still engaging with your background in health advocacy while you were traveling? Will you bring your abroad experiences with you during your time at Harris?
One really cool thing I did while traveling was that I had been in touch with a public health professor in Japan that I had met; so I stayed with her for a few days while I was in Japan, and she allowed me to shadow her at her public policy school. She helps build bridges between rural communities and the university, specifically for issues people face as they age. And to be in Brazil when the Zika virus was happening, and through the Olympics, and to be there as it was making news was really surreal. And a big thing that appealed to me about Harris is that so many students are from abroad; I’m really excited about that.
Your work in the healthcare program development has been very collaborative and expansive. How do you envision utilizing this experience within the classroom at Harris? Are there any courses or clinics in particular that you’re excited about?
I looked through all the syllabi from the core courses of recent years, and I was excited about each one. Learning political theories, and talking about game theory, and how that plays out and what we think that means—how we can use that to predict how community-based organizations will react to a change in medicaid policy. I want to read about that and talk with people about it. I don’t have the space for that in my normal life now, so I’m really excited to do that. That’s the cool thing about grad school is that you find a program where each class you’re excited about—that’s how it was when I looked at the Harris curriculum.
What big ideas motivate you daily?
What I do, work-wise, is push for stronger communities—stronger community-based services, stronger organic community social networks, communities that have stronger school systems and are safer. I’m mostly interested in how the spaces people are surrounded in and how the systems they’re working in allows them healthier or not—especially in times of transition. Right now I’m really interested in end-of- life issues and how to best support people and families as a loved one gets sicker and sicker, and then dies, and how people prepare for that. On the other end of the life spectrum, I also studied women’s health in college and was trained as a doula. [Birth] is such a deeply important social event and I think I’m interested with how the healthcare system interacts with that. You’ve been in Chicago for a few years. Do you have any insight for prospective or admitted students who are looking to make the move to the city? Any hidden gems or favorite places you like to go? I’m a big biker, so I love biking along the lake—North or South sides. I think there’s so many beautiful spots, either from Promontory Point looking at the skyline, or getting to see downtown from different distances up on the North Side. I have a photo montage from Oak Street Beach to the North Street Beach to Fullerton to Diversey to Belmont Harbor. You notice different things as you get closer or father away. I think that’s really cool.