I wouldn’t have told you this as a high school senior, but I didn’t have a clue about what I wanted to study in college. I entered the University of Evansville (UE) as a psychobiology major (because it sounded cool), then dabbled with the idea of creating my own degree, then switched to political science before finally settling on a biology degree and keeping a minor in political science. It was a blessing to be in such a supportive environment while exploring my options, and to know that the classes I was taking would count toward my degree even though I hadn’t yet picked my major.
As it turns out, I was interested in public health, but in my early undergraduate years, I didn’t know what I was looking for. So I pursued my interests in my own way. I gave a presentation on influenza A for my virology class while comparing pandemic flu preparedness in the U.S. and China for my political science research methods class. This enabled me to cut down on the amount of work I had to do, but, more importantly, I was given the space to explore my own ideas to the best of my ability. Furthermore, I honed my knowledge base while learning how to think critically and to articulate my views.
It was a blessing to be in such a supportive
environment while exploring my options, and to know that the classes I
was taking would count toward my degree even though I hadn’t yet picked
After a career advisor helpfully pointed me toward public health, I was soon filling out applications for master’s degree programs. A semester in Australia my junior year gave me the confidence to apply to some programs abroad. This opened the door for me to study, live, work and play in Europe, and I’ve loved every minute of it!
Having spent time during my undergraduate degree thinking critically about how topics were interlinked, I felt better prepared for the interdisciplinary nature of my studies. Not surprisingly, many of my course mates had done their undergraduate degrees in Europe, where undergraduate study is much more specialized. Though I was impressed with their depth of knowledge in one subject area, I had a breadth of experience. I didn’t know as much about virology or parasitology, but I could easily contribute ideas about policy, populations, and broad impact. Through this time, I gained a greater appreciation of the opportunity that I had been given during my undergraduate degree to study Shakespeare with my favorite professor at UE and to learn classical guitar at the same time that I was completing my organic chemistry and bacteriology labs.
I’m also thankful that communication skills were emphasized so much at UE. Almost every class that I took required an oral presentation in addition to written work. I was surprised at the anxiety that came over so many of my fellow master’s students when presentations were required. As a professional academic, I’m now constantly collaborating with colleagues, teaching students, and disseminating my research. Good communication skills have been crucial to my success.
I’m glad I began my professional journey with a liberal arts degree because now, ten years later, I’m still learning. I hope that my knowledge will continue to be an agent that improves international public health.