MPH Student Ambassadors
The MPH Student Ambassador program is a volunteer opportunity for students to be representatives of our Public Health Program. The student ambassadors are happy to talk with prospective students about their experiences in the program. You can find their email addresses next to their names below.
2020 - 2021 MPH Student Ambassadors
My name is Fernanda Gutierrez Matos, I am an international MPH student completing both Infectious Disease and Public Health Education concentrations. I graduated from the University of Toronto in May 2018 with a degree in Human Biology and a minor in Psychology. After graduating, I took a gap year, explored grad school options and decided to do an MPH. I became interested in Public Health as I am passionate about research, community health and advocacy and public health is a field that allows me to integrate these three elements. In the future, I hope to make healthcare more accessible to populations facing health disparities.
I wanted to become a student ambassador to encourage other students—both domestic and international— to join the VT MPH program. One of my favorite things about the department is its close-knit community. Although I was new to the U.S, Blacksburg and VT, the students, faculty and staff have welcomed me and made me feel at home. Another important aspect that I would like to emphasize is the practical experiences offered by the department and VT. In my first year as a graduate student, I was able to participate in several public health initiatives at a local and international level and I also secured an assistantship with the Language and Culture Institute at VT. Both experiences have allowed me to face real- world scenarios, put into practice what I have learned in class, be prepared for professional opportunities and find mentors.
I hope to serve as a resource for future students and show them how fun and important public health can be. Please feel free to contact me by email with any questions you may have!
My name is Teace Markwalter and I am from Vienna, Virginia in Fairfax County. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Human Development from Virginia Tech in December of 2018. Along with that, I have minors in Animal Science and Medicine and Society. I started my MPH here in the fall of 2019 with a concentration in Health Education.
My interest in public health was sparked during my internship with the health department here while completing my undergraduate degree. I wanted a career that combined my passions for service, health, the environment, animals, and education, so public health was perfect for me! Throughout my studies here and work at the health department, I have further developed my love for the field.
I wanted to stay at Tech for my MPH for a variety of reasons. The school’s motto “Ut Prosim”, (“That I may serve”), drew me to Tech for my undergrad and still resonates with me today. The program is also housed in the vet school, which provides a foundation in One Health. My interest in rural health is also supported by the location in the Appalachian region. During my time here, I have grown to love it even more. The faculty and staff provide amazing support for the students and countless opportunities to gain experience. Though I love everything I learn about public health, I am especially interested in Women’s Health and Maternal and Child Health. In the future, I would love to work for a College/University or the State or Federal Government.
Past student ambassadors were a great resource for me, so I wanted to provide that service for potential and future students. Feel free to contact me by email with any questions!
My name is Sam Miller and I am from Solomons, Maryland. I am in the Public Health Education concentration and I am also going to complete the Global Planning and International Development certificate. I graduated from Virginia Tech in May of 2019 with a B.S. in Human Development and a B.A. in Communication Studies. I plan on graduating in May of 2021 and complete a fellowship with the CDC and hopefully move into a full time position after the fellowship finishes.
I chose to continue my education at Virginia Tech because I thought a MPH would be the best fit for me as well as the best fit for what I have degrees in. I want to focus on health communication and Public Health is a perfect fit. This program will allow me to find a career that would allow me to use my skills and strengths to better the public as a whole.
I wanted to be a student ambassador for the VT MPH program because it allows me to use my communications skills to help those students who are looking into completing their MPH. I was a tour guide for Virginia Tech in undergrad so I am very familiar with the campus and all its idiosyncrasies, so if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out by email and I'd love to show you around the place I call home!
Hello! I am Hannah Reed, a current second-year Master of Public Health student in the Infectious Disease concentration. Before becoming an MPH student, I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Radford University where I discovered my passion for the interconnectedness between wildlife and human society. After earning my MPH, I hope to continue my education at an osteopathic medical school to become an infectious disease physician serving in rural Appalachian communities.
I decided to pursue an MPH because I feel like physicians are able to provide more effective care if they are able to understand how the individual patient contributes to the health of the overall population. I was drawn to Virginia Tech’s MPH program because their mission focuses on serving the local area. I am from Pulaski, Virginia-about 45 minutes away from Blacksburg- and it was extremely important to be part of an organization that was reaching out to my own community. Since becoming a member of the VT MPH community, I have gained invaluable personal and professional experiences that have surpassed my initial expectations.
Because the MPH program has greatly contributed to my success, I wanted an opportunity give back by becoming a Student Ambassador. I would like to recruit more students from the New River Valley region and surrounding areas in order to increase community involvement in existing public health interventions as well as inspire future ones to be initiated by community members. Feel free to contact me by email with any questions!
Hi, my name is Lauren Smith, and I am from Waterford, VA. This past fall, I was the first student to start out in the Accelerated UG/MPH program, and I loved it! I was able to complete the final year of my undergraduate program while beginning the MPH program at Virginia Tech. May 2020, I graduated with dual degrees in Animal and Poultry Sciences and Agribusiness, and a minor in Public Health. This coming year I will be completing my MPH degree with a concentration in Infectious Disease and a Certificate in Data Analytics.
My path in getting here has involved a wide range of interests and experiences, but all comes together in my main goal of working in the field of One Health and Zoonotic Disease Epidemiology. I started out with a strong interest in animals and spent time working at wildlife centers, poultry farms, animal clinics, and an animal shelter. Then, after spending several internships studying HIV and cancer at the NIH, I found a new passion in disease research. During my junior year, my NIH mentor recommended that I investigate the field of epidemiology as a means of incorporating my academic interests of math and economics with my laboratory and animal experience. I ended up taking Intro to Public Health and some biostatistics/computer science courses as free electives, which led me to decide that this was the right path for me. I reached out to some of the faculty in the Public Health Program and found that this Accelerated UG/MPH program was a perfect way to enter the Public Health field as a “late to the game” rising senior.
Since joining this program, I have felt closer and closer to finding my most purposeful career. The faculty and staff have been great mentors and the program’s focus on the One Health perspective aligns perfectly with my goals. Additionally, the program’s ties with the Virginia Department of Health Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) has brought me incredible opportunities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing me to volunteer at various Southwest VA health department call centers, testing sites, and epidemiology response teams. I wanted to become a student ambassador to give back all that I have received from this program and help build the Accelerated UG/MPH path. I would like to help future students with a wide variety of backgrounds find their place in public health as I did. Feel free to contact me by email with any questions!
Previous MPH Student Ambassadors
Steven Black graduated completing the Public Health Education concentration of the MPH program and a Certificate in Environmental Politics and Policy.
My name is Steven Black and I am from Virginia Beach, VA. I hope to use the skills and knowledge that I obtain from this program to work in Health Policy, hopefully working for the VDH or for advocacy groups to influence the most beneficial change that I can for all Americans.
I earned my Bachelor's of Science Degree right here at Virginia Tech in May 2017 and went straight into this program the following Fall Semester. I chose this program because of the close-knit atmosphere that I could see in the program. Other programs that I had looked at made me feel that I would just be a number getting a degree, and I felt that I would truly get to work with faculty and build meaningful relationships to allow me to get the most out of my education in this program.
I wanted to be a student ambassador because I knew how difficult it can be to look at so many programs and to decide what is truly best for you. I hope to be able to make the experience of picking a MPH program as pleasant as possible, and to show students how important Public Health is. Even if your end goal is to work in a specific health field, it is so important to understand how every field can and should work together to ensure the health of all people. I hope to be able to show people how important and how fun Public Health is and to just be the best resource that I can be to others.
Shelby Borowski graduated completing the Public Health Education concentration of the MPH program and also graduated with her PhD in Human Development and Family Science.
My name is Shelby Borowski. I am from Tolland, Connecticut. I received my Bachelor of Arts from the University of Connecticut in Human Development and Family Studies, as well as Psychology in 2014. I was accepted in the PhD program for Human Development at Virginia Tech in 2014, and soon after that became a Master of Public Health student in the public health education concentration. I decided to pursue this simultaneous degree because of my research interests. My research interests specifically focus on how the work and family life influence health behaviors. The MPH program provides me with the background I need to understand health and health behaviors. In addition, the MPH program gives me applied experience, which I really enjoy.
In the future, I hope to become a researcher and advocate. I have a strong interest in biostatistics. In addition, I believe I can be an advocate by conducting and translating my research to policymakers, workplaces, clinicians, and stakeholders.
I became a student ambassador because I wanted to become more involved in the program by helping recruit incoming students. This MPH program has been so beneficial to me from the curriculum to the flexibility with my other degree. I want to share my experiences with others interested in pursuing a degree in public health.
Taylor Holsinger graduated completing both the Infectious Disease and Public Health Education concentrations of the MPH program.
My name is Taylor Holsinger and I am a MPH Candidate for 2019. I hope to focus my future career on STDS and HIV related education and prevention in Eastern Africa. I’m from Roanoke, Virginia and received my undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies from Roanoke College in 2014. I immediately entered the corporate work force after finishing my bachelor’s degree, but really became invested in public health after spending 6 months working on HIV testing and projects in Nairobi, Kenya in 2016.
I was drawn to Virginia Tech because of its close proximity to my home and family as well the size, and tightknit cohort, and I just couldn’t deny my inner Hokie any longer. Blacksburg is also able to cater to many of my interests, including; hiking with my dog, biking and kayaking. By being a student ambassador, I hope to be able to reach out and encourage prospective students, but to also assist in creating outreach activities within the current MPH cohort, and to develop lifelong connections and friendships between current students, faculty, and staff.
Kristina Jiles graduated completing the Public Health Education concentration of the MPH Program. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Human, Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise at Virginia Tech.
My name is Kristina Jiles and I am from Riverdale, Maryland. My research consists of collaborating with Virginia Cooperative Extension to develop and evaluate implementation and control systems for the CDC's National Diabetes Prevention Program across the state of Virginia. Additional research projects include implementation and evaluation of diabetes prevention and management, obesity prevention and management, and nutrition related activities.
In the future, I hope to work for the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement and to evaluate evidence-based programs within health disparate communities related to diabetes and obesity in both children and adults. I have received a Master of Science degree in Biology from Hampton University in 2014 and received my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, with a concentration in Pre-Medicine, from Elizabeth City State University in 2012.
I chose the VT MPH program because I wanted to learn different approaches to implementing health education interventions and programs. I believed that this program would not only enhance my knowledge of health promotional strategies, but also assist me in the application of promoting health projects to address and to prevent health issues/risks within real-world settings. This program assisted me in obtaining more insight into health behavior and applying those theories to intervention designs to help determine why individuals endure in certain behaviors. Moreover, the program has heightened my learning about evaluative tools used for interventions to enhance fidelity and valid and reliable methods to yield more evidence-based interventions.
I wanted to be a student ambassador I want to be able to provide current and prospective students insight into the health education realm of public health and for students to experience the numerous opportunities within MPH program. I believe that a student ambassador entails being dedicated to the students and providing them the resources needed to receive the best experience possible working in public health. I want to be able to motivate, encourage, and be a positive role model for students with the ultimate goal of them being successful in the MPH program.
Harper graduated in Spring 2020 completing the Public Health Education concentration of the MPH program as well as her Verification Statement for the Didactic Program in Dietetics.
My name is Harper Lovegrove and I am from Fredericksburg, VA. I am in the Public Health Education concentration of the MPH program, and I am also taking classes to get my Verification Statement for the Didactic Program in Dietetics here at Virginia Tech. I graduated from George Mason University in May 2017 with a B.S. in Community Health, concentrating in Nutrition. My plan is to graduate in May 2020, complete a dietetic internship, and become a Registered Dietitian. My passions are in nutrition education and local food systems and policies, but I am also interested in outpatient clinical dietetics.
I chose to continue my education at Virginia Tech because the MPH and dietetics programs here were the perfect mirrors of my undergraduate studies, but on an advanced level. I love public health education because it makes health and wellness accessible to everyone, not just those with extensive resources. Combining the MPH with nutrition gives me the tools I need to do what I love: helping people eat better and live healthier lives in a context and environment that work for them. The faculty and staff not only in the MPH and HNFE programs, but at VT at large, have welcomed me and made me feel confident about my future.
I wanted to be a student ambassador because it allows me to do what I love and want to do in my career, which is help people feel comfortable making the right choices. Even in my short time here, I have grown to love this school and this area of Virginia, and I want to encourage prospective students to feel the same way. Please reach out to me with any questions about public health, nutrition and dietetics, or graduate school in general!
Mariah Malachi graduated completing the Public Health Education concentration of the MPH Program.
I am from Winchester Virginia, but I consider Blacksburg to be home away from home. The beautiful campus, academic prestige, and my love of the VT Hokies all pushed me to stay at Virginia Tech to pursue Public Health after I graduated last Spring from VT with my B.S. in Sociology. In the future, I hope to pursue a second Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy and so the MPH program will help me to better understand the non-clinical aspects of health professions. I hope to incorporate the skills that I obtain from this program into my impending profession as an Occupational Therapist in the future. I am honored to have the position as an ambassador for the MPH program at VT. As an ambassador I hope to assist in the development of a tightknit community of MPH students and to serve as a leader for forthcoming students. I look forward to serving as an ambassador for the program!
Jordan graduated in Spring 2020 completing the Public Health Education concentration of the MPH program.
My name is Jordan Mills and I am from Charlottesville, VA. I came to Virginia Tech five years ago and started my undergrad in the Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise major. I got my degree in May 2018 and began the MPH program at Virginia Tech in the Fall of 2018. While also pursuing a Certificate in Global Planning and International Development Studies, my main concentration for the program is in Public Health Education.
The Public Health Program at Virginia Tech was introduced to me from a combination of faculty and a previous student ambassador. I chose to stay here at Virginia Tech because I was shown how the program had opportunities related to the variety of interests I had from nutrition, health management, program development and implementation, and many more. Public Health has a place for it all!
I wanted to become a student ambassador to become more involved with recruitment of incoming students. The student ambassador that helped familiarized me with the many aspects of the program helped finalize my decision by answering my questions. I felt as though I wanted to do the same with prospective students. I also believe that public health is one of the most important fields that can create change and hope to emphasis that to all interested students. In the future, I hope to work with communities on development and implementation of health programs and continue learning about how the environment impacts health behavior.
Travis Oishi graduated completing the Infectious Disease concentration of the MPH program.
Hello, my name is Travis Oishi. I graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in Biological Sciences in 2017, and I decided to get my MPH here in hopes of pursuing a career in epidemiology. I first became interested in epidemiology after taking a beekeeping course during the spring semester of my senior year. Through beekeeping, I was able to experience firsthand how diseases could spread in a population, as well as the ways to prevent and control them.
For my practicum I will be spending my summer in Hilo, Hawaii doing epi work related to rat lungworm; a disease that has been an ongoing issue in my hometown. Outside of classes, I like to spend my free time cleaning fossils in the Virginia Tech’s Paleobiology Lab. I wanted to become a student ambassador to share my passion for epidemiology and other subjects with both prospective and current students.
Malik graduated in Spring 2020 completing the Infectious Disease concentration of the MPH program.
Hello, my name is Malik Outram, and I am currently a first year student in the Infectious Disease concentration of our MPH program. I am from Norfolk, Virginia and received my B.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia in 2017. My interest in public health began when I wanted to find a way to combine my passion of volunteering and my major of molecular biology, which led me to an internship position working with VDH, Eastern Virginia Medical School, ODU, and the City of Norfolk in a vector control program during the Zika Virus outbreak. My internship exposed me to public health, and I knew from that point that it was the field I wanted to get into. I was able to experience firsthand how important it is to protect our communities from diseases and that the work being done has the biggest impact on everyone’s life.
I chose the Virginia Tech MPH Program because I wanted to challenge myself and go to a university that was not close to home, and one that also provided a close-knit atmosphere where I could build a meaningful relationship with the faculty to get the most out of my education. I wanted to become a student ambassador to provide assistance to new students who maybe moving into the area and start building a sense of community with new MPH students. In keeping with traditions at both CNU and VT, I wanted to be that person who can make a difference in someone’s experience. In the future I hope to be working with a department of health on a local level where I can have a direct impact on a community by promoting a healthy lifestyle and preventing the spread of unwanted diseases.
After four amazing years as a Ram, Andrew graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor in biology and a minor in chemistry. Having spent 22 years in Richmond, he decided that it was time to move somewhere new. He has always had a passion for health and education, so he started looking into MPH programs around the nation. Andrew was immediately drawn to Virginia Tech’s MPH program for a number of reasons. He thought that the MPH faculty were very approachable, the school’s motto of Ut Prosim really resonated well with him, and he appreciated the beauty of Virginia Tech’s campus along with its friendly and welcoming student body. He also was drawn to the graduate certificate that the graduate school offered in global planning and international development studies since Andrew was mainly focused on global health concerns.
Because of Andrew’s love for the MPH program (and Virginia Tech as a whole), he was accepted as one of our ambassadors. Andrew is highly involved on campus and even lives on campus where he works, so he is happy to answer any questions you may have about graduate life at Virginia Tech. Andrew will be graduating from the program this upcoming May. He will then have a month of relaxation with family and friends before he departs for Peace Corps Belize. Andrew will spend a little over two years living and working in remote villages within Belize, where he will help out their local communities as a community health educator. After his two years of service, he hopes to come back to the states and work for the federal government on international development issues.
Emilie graduated in Spring 2020 completing both the Infectious Disease and Public Health Education concentrations.
My name is Emilie Schweikert and I am an MPH student and am completing both the Infectious Disease and Public Health Education concentrations. I am from the small town of Ruckersville, Virginia, just north of Charlottesville. I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2018 with a degree in Animal and Poultry Sciences and couldn't bare leaving Blacksburg just yet so I decided to enter the MPH program.
I first became interested in public health after being exposed to the ways agriculture, nutrition, and economics interact to determine the health of individuals and populations. I also love the fact that public health approaches things at a broader level. Not surprisingly, my interests in public health are fairly broad, as I love the concept of One Health and looking at how human, animal, and environmental health overlap but am also passionate about helping people make healthy life choices. In the future I hope to pursue work in One Health or epidemiology (or both!) while advocating for ways to make healthcare more accessible.
I chose this program because of the unique concentrations and level of care I felt from faculty even as a prospective student. Whereas in other programs you have to choose one specific concentration, nowhere else I looked at offered ID and PHE options. I wanted to be an ambassador for the program because I know how difficult it is to consider graduate school options when you don't really know what you want to do. I hope to be able to be a resource for future students and show them how important, exciting, and rewarding public health truly is.
Samantha graduated in Spring 2020 completing the Public Health Education concentration of the MPH program as well as her Verification Statement for the Didactic Program in Dietetics.
My name is Samantha Seay and I am pursuing an MPH with a concentration in Public Health Education. I am from Bassett, Virginia, a small town located an hour and a half south of Blacksburg. I am passionate about helping people, and I hope to use the skills and knowledge I obtain from the MPH program to help rural areas thrive through wellness! Going through the Public Health Program really encouraged me to expand my experiences, to be able to use what I have learned to help support community growth, specifically in rural areas.
I received my Bachelor's Degree in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise from Virginia Tech. There was no hesitation when determining where I wanted to get my master's degree from, as I grew to find a connection with Blacksburg, VA. I learned a lot about physical health from my HNFE degree, and I wanted to find a program that would help me expand this knowledge, and be able to help increase problem-solving skills for community based needs in different aspects besides physical activity and nutritional health. I chose the VT MPH Program because I enjoyed being so close to home during my undergraduate years, and I wasn't ready to leave the New River Valley. I developed connections with some of the faculty and staff for the MPH program, and after discussing my future plans with them, it seemed like the perfect fit.
I wanted to become a student ambassador to encourage other potential students to pursue the degree. It is a great degree devoted to practical experiences and scenario based learning, so that you can learn more about real world scenarios, instead of just "memorizing information for the next test". My time during the MPH program has prepared me for professional opportunities, and has built a network of connections with people I trust with my personal and professional growth. I wanted to help other students, who may or may not know what they want to pursue as a future career, learn about the many benefits of public health and how the program could help them prosper. My advice for deciding students is if you are passionate about helping people, but don't know where to go from them, the MPH program can help you get to where you want to be!
I am Zana Shabani from Kosovo. Kosovo is a newly independent country in Eastern Europe. I am a second year MPH student at Virginia Tech, graduating May 2017, with a concentration in Public Health Education. I completed my bachelor/master’s degree in pharmacy in Kosovo and I am a licensed pharmacist there. Working as a pharmacist in a developing country is very difficult and public health issues such as antibiotic resistance are major problems. This is particularly what brought me to the field of public health, in addition to the lack of expertise in public health in my country. I chose Virginia Tech through the scholarship program from my country called transformational leadership and it has been a great experience for me as an international student. Becoming a student ambassador is important since I like to talk about and promote public health as well as bring a different experience to the program and learn from this opportunity myself. In the future, I want to promote public health in developing countries and increase awareness about different health issues that affect developing countries.
Mari Shelton graduated from the MPH Program completing both the Infectious Diseases and Public Health Education concentrations.
I completed my undergraduate degree here at Virginia Tech as well, studying Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, with a concentration in Exercise Health Promotion. My previous time here played a huge part in why I came back for my MPH: once I figured out what graduate program was meant for me, I knew I had to return to Virginia Tech because I completely loved my undergraduate time, and couldn’t imagine going anywhere else!
I became interested in public health after spending two years working in a pediatrics clinic in Northern Virginia. It was here where I witnessed a wide range of health disparities within the community, and a lack of policy/advocacy for specific populations and health conditions. I was inspired to focus my educational and professional goals on this area of public health, and I hope to one day work on health policy, specifically in women and children’s health (human trafficking, domestic abuse, STDs, and maternal health). I wanted to become an MPH student ambassador because when I was considering graduate schools, I wasn’t sure what program would allow me to combine my goals with a structured curriculum. Being an ambassador will allow me to reach out to prospective students who might also fall in that gray area, develop relations with other programs and communities, and represent Virginia Tech in the best way possible.