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SIT public health alumna pursues Fulbright role in Uganda
December 19th, 2023 | Uncategorized
As a Washington and Lee University student, Allie Stankewich did a public health internship with SIT in Uganda. This fall, she heads back on a Fulbright teaching assistantship. This story was originally published on the Washington and Lee website in August. Excerpts are reprinted here with permission.
That summer, I learned from various health professionals, researchers, and nonprofit workers about the complexities of public health in the region of East Africa and its intersections with social, political and cultural dynamics.
What will you be doing after graduation?
This coming fall, I will be in Uganda (Tanzania’s neighboring country in East Africa) on the Fulbright Grant for an English Teaching Assistantship. I will support Ugandan university students with English-based academic writing, interview skills and resumes, among other things. While there, I also hope to engage with Soft Power Health, a nonprofit focused on public health and sustainable well-being, through their initiatives on food security.
How did your career plans evolve over the course of your time at W&L?
I certainly would not have predicted getting to this point when I started W&L, but I came into college sure I would stay open to new possibilities because of my vast array of interests and indecisiveness about what I would major in or what I ultimately wanted to do. I planned to keep my options open and originally started out taking coursework for the pre-med track, but ultimately felt most compelled and excited by big ideas and questions related to public health or environmental health. Then, as I gained more opportunities to study abroad and engage with international-focused fellowships, my mind was opened to global affairs, perhaps global health or international development. Quite honestly, though, my career plans are still evolving and likely will be for a while!
I see each part of my story—every extracurricular, course, job and major—as a stepping stone that is a part of the story.
What internships or other summer experiences did you partake in and how did those experiences shape you and your career plans?
The summer after my first year, I did an internship with Campus Kitchen at W&L, where I helped address food insecurity in the local Rockbridge County. My work included developing strategic initiatives, COVID-19 response and nutrition education lessons, as well as providing organizational support to CKWL. With conversations on sustainability, human dignity, community-based solutions, and a mission for the physical and mental wellness of the people we serve, Campus Kitchen became a core inspiration in how I hope to make an impact in my communities and the world.
After my sophomore year, I did the Public Health in the Tropics Internship in Jinja, Uganda, through School for International Training. That summer, I learned from various health professionals, researchers, and nonprofit workers about the complexities of public health in the region of East Africa and its intersections with social, political and cultural dynamics. It was around this time I was diverging from the pre-medical track and becoming more interested in public health and its intersections with different cultures and climates.
I thought a lot about how food security is the crux of environmental sustainability and human well-being is a critical issue that demands an interdisciplinary response through public health and climate change. Additionally, in the realm of diplomacy and international affairs or international development, I care deeply about upholding agency, equity and compassion for a more just world, and building authentic relationships and communities is an important way of achieving that.
I thought a lot about how food security is the crux of environmental sustainability and human well-being is a critical issue that demands an interdisciplinary response through public health and climate change
To become a better listener, a more inquisitive learner, and a more informed global citizen, I participated in the Boren program during my third college summer and the fall term of senior year, in which I completed an intensive study of Swahili language and studied abroad in Tanzania. These memorable, enriching experiences in East Africa were a large reason why I applied for Fulbright — to continue deepening my cultural engagement and exchange with this region.
What did you study here and what are some skills or learnings you will take from your academic experience into the professional world?
At Washington and Lee, I did my best to maximize my liberal arts education! Ultimately, I really connected with and was compelled by the sociology and environmental studies majors; I am grateful for the flexibility they both allowed me to pursue an interdisciplinary education with a unique blend of environmental sociology with a public health lens. I also minored in poverty and human capability studies, which felt like a natural fit to incorporate a people- and dignity-centered approach to the big questions I wanted to be asking and exploring.
This combination of majors and minors has given me a strong platform and preparation into countless future jobs and career paths. Above all, they have equipped me with the ability to think critically, synthesize knowledge across subject matter and integrate different perspectives, and develop a toolkit of both qualitative and quantitative methods for research and policy analysis.
I have engaged deeply with academic literature, learned and applied statistical inference and analysis skills ... and gained my own voice in thinking outside the box and bridging together big questions. I will go forward into the professional world adaptable, versatile, and a coachable learner on-the-job. In addition, I have learned to not underestimate the power and importance of soft skills, and I believe being a W&L student, across all academic disciplines, we go forth with a valuable ability to listen, connect with people, and model empathy and compassion in the work we do.
I encourage anyone who is feeling uncertain to trust themselves to lean into the uncertainty and be open to taking risks and trying something new, even if you don’t necessarily know what doors it will open next.
What career-related advice would you give to next year’s graduating class?
I encourage anyone who is feeling uncertain to trust themselves to lean into the uncertainty and be open to taking risks and trying something new, even if you don’t necessarily know what doors it will open next. I have benefited from not trying to justify every decision I make for summer plans or career decisions by solely how it gets me to some end destination, but rather by making decisions to do things I believed would help me learn, grow, explore, be challenged and open my eyes to something new. I see each part of my story—every extracurricular, course, job and major—as a stepping stone that is a part of the story. Some of them have clear contributions to my future career, and others are more obscure or still emerging. Regardless, take advantage of this time we have to experience the world and people in the ways that you want to. Stay curious, ask questions, try something new. Allow yourself time to digest it all and reflect.