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Student Ambassadors

The student ambassador program is a volunteer opportunity for undergraduate and graduate public health students to be representatives of our Public Health Program. The student ambassadors serve as a resource for current and incoming public health students, and are happy to talk with prospective students about their experiences in the program. You can read more about them and find their email addresses by clicking on their names in orange below. 

2024 - 2025 Graduate (MPH) Student Ambassadors

Gracie Akers
Gracie Akers
Andrea Connor
Andrea Connor
Emma Hare
Emma Hare
Elly Loyd
Elly Loyd
Lauren Maghak
Lauren Maghak
Kelly Ribeiro
Kelly Ribeiro

My name is Gracie Akers, and I am from Pulaski County, Virginia. I am a second-year MPH student concentrating in Community Health Promotion and Equity with a passion for rural health education. I graduated with my B.S. in Biology from Virginia Tech in May 2022 and my B.S. in Public Health in May 2023. I actively participate in research as an assistant for the Center of Public Health Practice and Research and as a GRA with the Center of Gerontology. 

I'm honored to help current and prospective students in discovering public health experiences that fulfill their interests and advance their goals. Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns!

Email Gracie:

My name is Andrea Connor and I am from Midlothian, Virginia. I am a DVM/MPH student, with the Infectious Disease concentration for my MPH and the Mixed track for my DVM. I graduated with my B.S. in Animal and Poultry Sciences from Virginia Tech in May of 2022, and am so proud to eventually become an 8 year Hokie! 

During my undergraduate education, I was involved in numerous research projects, one of which used the calf model to study novel drugs to treat a parasite called Cryptosporidium. I was interested in pursuing this research position as it was a great way to combine my interests in animal and human health, along with public health and drug discovery. Prior to 2020, I was convinced that I would pursue my DVM and become a small animal practitioner. However, I learned about the MPH program and how well it fit with my interests in infectious diseases and the utilization of the One Health approach. Thus, I set a new path towards a DVM/MPH, which started when I completed my first set of MPH courses the summer prior to starting vet school. I will complete the rest, along with my Practicum and Integrative Learning Experience, prior to graduating with both of my degrees in the spring of 2026.

My eventual goal is to work in clinical practice before transitioning into a governmental role in disease outbreak response, emergency preparedness, and supporting the One Health approach. Additionally, I am passionate about mentorship and paying it forward, and would not be here without those who came before me. I have had multiple opportunities to mentor prospective and incoming students in the past, and continue to do so within the DVM program as an ambassador. I am so excited to continue helping out fellow students as an ambassador for the MPH program in order to provide insight to those who may be interested in the dual degree program. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or general inquiries!

Email Andrea:

Hi, I'm Emma, a 2nd year MPH student at VT with a bachelor’s in public health from American University. I am passionate about mental health access and women’s health and actively advocating for both in my current position as the GA at Cook Counseling Center. My hobbies include reading and any outdoor activity, as well as spending time with my dog, Oshie!  

Email Emma:

My name is Lauren Maghak and I’m a third year dual degree DVM/MPH pursing the infectious disease concentration of my MPH and the public/corporate track of my DVM from Columbia, MD. I graduated from Clemson in 2020 with a B.S. in biochemistry and minors in animal science and chemical engineering. I then went on to complete an M.S. in human medicine studying kidneys and the role uromodulin plays in recovery from acute kidney injury at Indiana university school of medicine. 

While there, I realized how much I missed working closely with animals and knew I needed to find a way to incorporate them more in my final career. I pursed a minor in epidemiology while I completed my master’s and fell in love with the more zoomed out form of research. As I fell out of love with benchwork research, I fell in love with public health and the ways veterinarians can help protect both animals and people. 

I feel very strongly about the concept of One Health and science communication being key to solving wicked problems. I look forward to this year being not only an MPH ambassador, but also the president of the Public Health Association. I can’t wait to watch both organizations grow! Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or thoughts. It was never my plan to end up where I am today, but I am sure glad life brought me here. 

Email Lauren:

Hi! My name is Elly and I am a second year MPH student in the Infectious Disease concentration. I entered as an accelerated student and earned my B.S. in Clinical Neuroscience from Virginia Tech with a minor in Public Health in December 2023. My areas of interest include the impact of climate change on human health and the environment. I am currently part of a research project that is investigating the impacts of flooding on pregnancy. Upon completion of the program, I hope to work in disaster resilience or emergency management and use my geospatial analysis skills to promote One Health. I love exploring Blacksburg and spending time with my older sister, who is also a VT MPH alum! I am excited to learn from each other through this program and help answer any questions for new MPH students. Please do not hesitate to reach out at any time if you need anything or just want to chat!

Email Elly:

Hello! My name is Kelly Ribeiro and I’m from Vienna, Virginia. I graduated in May 2024 with a BS degree in Public Health and two minors: Health Communication and Integrative Health & Wellness. This past year I have continued my education in the Accelerated MPH Program with a concentration in Infectious Disease.

I chose the Public Health program at Virginia Tech because of its One Health emphasis. I enjoy learning about all the many different facets of public health, especially public health policy, health equity in rural & underserved populations, and infectious diseases. I also enjoy how the courses introduce you to a range of disciplines to support a transdisciplinary approach to community health. The program also offers hands-on experiences in the field that gave me the opportunity to serve our campus and Blacksburg communities and live Virginia Tech’s motto, “Ut Prosim.” The faculty has given me a supportive and encouraging environment as I expand and learn more about my interests in Public Health.

I’m excited to help potential, incoming, and current students find experiences within Public Health that reinforce their passions and help them reach their goals. Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns!

Email Kelly:

2024 - 2025 Undergraduate (BSPH) Student Ambassadors


Helena Alemu
Helena Alemu
Albert Annan
Albert Annan
Andre Asarian
Andre Asarian
Betaneya Daniel
Betaneya Daniel
Louhan Dembele
Louhan Dembele
Kayla Ford
Kayla Ford
Thiviya Karuppasamy
Thiviya Karuppasamy
Malaika Kiyani
Malaika Kiyani
Pelagie Ky
Pelagie Ky
Ella Paci
Ella Paci
Domenico "Nico" Picciano
Domenico "Nico" Picciano
Grayson Russell
Grayson Russell
Minahil Sheikh
Minahil Sheikh
Faith Smith
Faith Smith
Photo of Caroline Wood
Caroline Wood

My name is Helena Alemu a junior from Northern Virginia majoring in Public Health with a minor in Health Communications. 

My ultimate goal is to attend physician assistant (PA) school, and I believe a public health degree will provide an excellent foundation for this path. Moreover, this degree aligns perfectly with my long-term aspiration to assist countries in need of medical aid, allowing me to make a meaningful impact on global health in the future. 

I wanted to become an ambassador to showcase the numerous opportunities and resources that VT has to offer. As someone who has benefited from these resources, I'm eager to share my experiences and help prospective students understand how VT can support their academic and personal growth.

Email Helena:

Hello! My name is Albert Annan, a senior, and I'm from Woodbridge, Virginia. I am currently majoring in Public Health at Virginia Tech and pursuing an accelerated Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in Infectious Diseases and a minor in Biological Sciences.

 I have always been interested in medicine and population health. When exploring majors, I found public health perfectly aligns my interests by emphasizing interpersonal relations, medicine, and community improvement. In the future, I aim to continue my education in medicine and assist marginalized communities comprehensively, with a strong emphasis on public health applications. On campus, I spend time volunteering as an EMT. I have a strong interest in infectious disease research. Reducing the burden of these diseases, especially in vulnerable communities, is of great importance to me. In the future, I hope to build meaningful relationships and assist in improving the quality of life for others.

The reason I wanted to become a public health ambassador was to assist those through their journey in public health at Virginia Tech. Helping peers avoid complications and burnout through their journey is what I desire to accomplish. I aspire to be a voice for fellow students and create overall improvement in public health. If you have any questions or concerns at all, do not hesitate to reach out!

Email Albert:

Andre Asarian is a 4th-year pre-medical student with interests in Emergency/Trauma/Disaster Medicine and Public Health. At VT, he is Public Health and Political Science dual degree student within the Honors College. In addition, Andre is a cadet in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, specifically within the Regimental Band - The Highty-Tightys. Within the Corps, he is in the Citizen Leader track as his ROTC, which prepares civilian students to be successful leaders in the world outside of the military without a required military commitment. Besides holding numerous leadership positions throughout his time in the VTCC, he is also the undergraduate student senator for the VMCVM to the VT Student Senate. Off campus, Andre spends time as a volunteer on Blacksburg Rescue while attending VT, and is looking to join public health research groups in preparation for medical school. Lastly, Andre is a nationally registered paramedic with the future goal of becoming a physician involved in Trauma and Critical Care

Email Andre:

Hi! My name is Betaneya Daniel and I am from Northern Virginia. I’m majoring in Public Health with a minor in Health Communication and expecting to graduate in Spring 2025. After completing my BSPH, I intend to receive an MPH.

When I was deciding on a major, I always knew studying human health was my greatest interest. However, I wasn’t inclined to major in Biology because it didn’t align with what I would be excited to learn like community health, epidemiology, health promotion, and most importantly advocacy for health equity. I quickly realized Public Health at Virginia Tech covered all these topics and more! The vastness of the field provides for learning that doesn’t need to be limited to a single interest. The more courses I took, the more excited I became about my major because it gives me the opportunity to learn about every aspect of human health in all its complexities. 

As a student ambassador, I get the chance to contribute to the success of the BSPH program that has positively served my experience here at Virginia Tech. I love to share and discuss public health with current and prospective students about the plentiful facets of the field or about the great program we have here! I’d love to hear from you, please feel free to contact me!

Email Betaneya:

Hi! My name is Louhan Dembele, and I am local to Blacksburg. I am so happy to be one of the BSPH Student Ambassadors. I’m double majoring in public health and international studies, with a minor in French language and culture for the practice of science. Outside of studying, I absolutely love to read (mysteries, thrillers, and contemporary fiction), listen to podcasts, journal, travel (especially to visit my family), spend time with my loved ones, and be outdoors when I can. 

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to go into the medical field. At some point, I came to the realization that while I want to do research and help others, I would much rather work on the broader population health level, rather than in a clinical setting with patients. Once the pandemic hit, I started to hear a lot about public health in the news. After a bit of research into this field, I knew that this is what I wanted to go into. Some of my interests within public health include global health, epidemiology, maternal and child health, and nutrition. My interests in global health stem from my international background: I was born and raised in the United States, but I am from the beautiful countries of Tanzania (East Africa) and Burkina Faso (West Africa). I hope that my future line of work will allow me to give back to my own communities. 

Please don’t hesitate to reach out, even if you just want to talk about how your day is going! I am definitely a people person, so I look forward to getting to know other students in public health. The BSPH Program at VT is awesome, with such amazing classes, faculty, staff, research, and other opportunities. If I can be of any assistance to you, let me know! 

Email Louhan:

Hello Everyone:) My name Is Kayla Ford, and I'm from Fairfax, Virginia! I am a Public Health Major with a minor in Health Communications, and I plan on graduating Spring of 2025. Upon graduation, I plan to continue my studies within the realm of Public Health and Administration, while pursuing a position in Health Consulting and Administration.

I came to Virginia Tech initially as a Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise major, but soon after realized it felt too narrow of a path for myself. I decided to switch into Public Health after my first semester because not only did it align the closest with my interests, it also opened up doors to plenty of different career paths from administration to policy, all while keeping the same idea of helping others. I overall love my major, and the variety of classes and professors, while tapping into other courses such as HNFE and Health Sciences. This major has overall been very rewarding, and switching majors provided me the opportunity to enjoy, grow, and form my future goals.

The major, advisors, and resources surrounding the program help create a personable experience that truly makes one feel comfortable and feel like they can handle the working world. This community has helped me immerse myself and opened doors to connections, different ways of learning, and building long term relationships. As a student ambassador, I hope to continue the experience I received and pass it to others. I can't wait to provide motivation, advice, and opportunities to those who are interested. I hope to be a wonderful resource to any prospective,incoming, and current students on or around the Virginia Tech campus. Feel free to reach out and chat!

Email Kayla:

Hi! I'm Thiviya, a junior from Ashburn, VA pursuing dual degrees in Microbiology and Public Health. I'm particularly interested in the quantitative side of public health – like epidemiology and biostatistics – and learning the science behind disease transmission. I'd like to continue these studies in graduate school, either in an MS or science-focused MPH program.

I started as a Public Health minor but loved the program so much that I eventually added it on as a second major. My experience with classes, professors, and advisors in the department has been overwhelmingly positive, especially with the smaller class sizes and genuinely caring faculty – an experience that can be hard to find, especially at such a large public university like VT. One of my favorite parts of our BSPH program is the Practicum experience, for which I was able to bring in the undergraduate research project I was already working on as just a Microbiology major. This opportunity let me find a unique way of combining my academic interests and is helping guide my future career path!

If you are interested in adding Public Health as a major or minor or are interested in undergraduate research in the public health field, feel free to reach out!

Email Thiviva:

Hi my name is Malaika Kiyani! I am from Northern Virginia. I chose public health as my major because I hope to attend medical school, and I felt the Public Health pre-med option was the best fit for me. I wanted to become an ambassador to show new students how versatile this major is.

Email Malaika:

Hi! My name is Pelagie Ky, and I’m from Purcellville, VA. I’m currently a senior in the Public Health program and will be starting my first year in the accelerated program this upcoming fall, so I’ll be sure to let you know how it's going! While at VT, I’ve also had the opportunity to be involved in undergraduate research through the Integrated Health Science and Research Program and have served as an intro bio TA and RA in the dorms. Outside of class, I love to read (anything by Emily Henry, Lauren Asher, and Abby Jimenz are automatic faves), listen to music ( I have over 100 Spotify playlists, but that’s because I make monthly playlists), and I’m an avid believer in dancing it out (iykyk).

I originally came in as a Public Health major wanting to learn about preventative methods of fighting disease to one day share that knowledge with my future patients as a physician. However, after taking Dr. Deagle’s Programming and Evaluation course, I fell in love with the field of maternal and child health as well as public health programming – which is one of the reasons that led me to apply to the accelerated program! With my future degrees, I hope to someday become an OB/GYN and use my public health knowledge to effectively plan prevention programs for my patients.

My love for this program is what led me to want to become an ambassador. I’ve learned so much about myself and have gained so many opportunities through the classes, my professors, and advisors, and I wanted to share that love with you future Hokies who are considering the BSPH Program. So please reach out, and let's chat!

Email Pelagie:

Hi, I'm Ella from Vienna, Virginia. I am an accelerated BSPH/MPH student with a focus of interest in health policy and epidemiology. I'm excited to be an ambassador for the Public Health program. This major has been such an important part of college for me. I truly love every part of this program (the people, classes, and opportunities) and hope to show others that! 

Email Ella:

My name is Domenico Picciano, and I'm from Windham, New Hampshire. I am majoring in Public Health with a double minor in Data and Decision Science and Entrepreneurship. With my degree, I aim to excel in the fields of healthcare data analytics or epidemiology. I am passionate about becoming an ambassador to guide and inspire a new generation of public health students, helping them achieve their fullest potential.

Email Domenico:

Hi! My name is Grayson Russell, and I am from Salem, Virginia! I am entering my second year here at Tech. I plan to graduate early in 2026 with a Bachelor’s in Public Health. With my degree, I plan to attend Physician Assistant school to earn my Master’s and begin practicing as a provider! I initially came to Tech as a Microbiology major, however, I realized after my first semester that I didn’t click with the major, so I began the search for a new major and found Public Health. After finding out that I could still take all the science classes I needed to take while learning about other important aspects of healthcare as a Public Health major, I knew it was for me! I decided to become an ambassador after my first semester as a Public Health student because all the professors, advisors, and faculty within Public Health are kind, smart, and passionate, and all of those transferred over to me as a student! I am eager to help other students on their journey, whether it be within Public Health, transferring majors, or anything else! Please feel free to reach out! I am so excited to get to know you!

Email Grayson: 

Hi! My name is Faith Smith and I am from Amherst, Virginia. I am entering my last year at Virginia Tech and am planning to graduate with my Bachelor’s in Public Health in the spring of 2024. After graduation I want to obtain my master’s in either Health Administration or Business Administration in hopes of going into a career of Health administration or Program Management involving public health after graduating. 

I came to Virginia Tech as a transfer student after originally going to North Carolina State University for Biomedical Engineering and learned that engineering was not for me, but I wanted to stay in the health sciences realm. I decided to transfer to Virginia Tech because of the family-like atmosphere among students/staff, academic opportunities, and the supportive community. After transferring to VT, I took Introduction to Public Health my first semester and fell in love with the general concepts of one health, population health, and administration that this class taught me. This class sparked my interest in the many diverse topics concerning Public Health making me excited to use the knowledge/skills I have learned in a future career. My favorite classes I have taken so far are epidemiology, policy and administration, and medical dilemmas where I was able to grow further in my studies and create great connections with my professors. Transferring to Virginia Tech’s major of Public Health has been such an enriching and rewarding experience because I have been able to learn engaging/useful curriculum for my future, create personal and professional relationships, and learn so much about myself along the way. Virginia Tech has provided me with so many resources to grow professionally, academically, and personally and I would not be where I am at today without them. 

As a student ambassador I am hoping to provide prospective/current students with any information they may need or want to make their journey at VT easier or more comfortable. I love getting to talk to people about things I am passionate about and Public Health is one of them, so I cannot wait to share any information I have. I am open to talk about classes, transferring/changing majors, college challenges, Public Health at VT, and anything else so feel free to reach out! Have a great year!

Email Faith:

My name is Minahil Sheikh and I’m a Junior here at Virginia Tech studying Public Health on the pre-dental track. As a student ambassador, I love bringing in a unique perspective to our team as a pre-dental student with a dedicated focus on promoting oral health and well-being within the broader context of Public Health. Beyond the realm of dentistry, I am deeply interested in health policy within public health. I'm dedicated to understanding the intricate dynamics of healthcare systems, advocating for equitable access to healthcare, and influencing policies that shape public health outcomes. Through my studies and extracurricular activities, I actively seek opportunities to bridge the gap between clinical practice and policy implementation, aiming to create tangible and sustainable improvements in community health. I'm really looking forward to connecting with incoming students, exchanging insights, and having discussions about the crucial intersection of dentistry, public health, and health policy. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or just to connect.

Email Minahil:

Hi! My name is Caroline Wood and I am from Richmond, Virginia. I am a Junior here at Virginia Tech and will be graduating in May 2025 and have aspirations of obtaining my Master of Public Health at Virginia Tech as well. I am passionate about being a Hokie along with fulfilling my Public Health degree. I came into college initially studying a different major, but I soon realized it wasn't the right fit for me. I am extremely grateful for all of the resources that helped guide me in my quest to switch my major to Public Health. When I became aware of the Public Health major, I instantly fell in love with it based on the profound sense of community between the advisors, professors, and classmates. I am knowledgeable about what this major offers at Virginia Tech as well as the countless opportunities it presents outside of the university. As a student ambassador, I strive to be a resource for incoming students, and also support those within and outside of the major by answering any questions and concerns. I take great pride in assisting others, especially when it comes to helping a fellow Hokie choose the path that is right for them :) I'm really looking forward to connecting with you, so please feel free to reach out if you have any questions, concerns, or just want to say hello! Go Hokies!

Email Caroline:

Student Ambassador Alumni


  • Andre Asarian
  • Betaneya Daniel
  • Louhan Dembele
  • Vineela Eppe
  • Kayla Ford
  • Alishba Malik
  • Kelly Ribeiro
  • Minahil Sheikh
  • Faith Smith
  • Caroline Wood


  • Dana Carhart
  • Andrea Connor
  • Jon Dance
  • Grace DiGirolamo
  • Samantha Edwards
  • Natalie Scheuer


  • Ayman Belafia
  • Chris Boyd
  • Grace DiGirolamo
  • Vineela Eppe
  • Hailey Hollerbach
  • Louisa Obenwa
  • Brooke Sheridan


  • Sarah Dixon, Accelerated MPH - Infectious Disease
  • Carley Elliott, MPH - Infectious Disease
  • Sam Rodgers, MPH - Infectious Disease and Public Health Education
  • Julia Utting, DVM/MPH - Infectious Disease
  • Domenique Villani, MPH - Infectious Disease and Public Health Education


  • Hannah Cho
  • Natalie Martin
  • Amanda Olney
  • Maya Rakotoarisoa


  • Madi Bautista, MPH - Infectious Disease
  • Kirsten Kohl, MPH - Infectious Disease and Public Health Education
  • Holley Moser, Accelerated MPH - Public Health Education
  • Alexis Nuzzo, MPH - Infectious Disease
  • Julia Utting, DVM/MPH - Infectious Disease
  • Fernanda Gutierrez Matos, MPH - Infectious Disease & Public Health Education
  • Teace Markwalter, MPH - Public Health Education
  • Sam Miller, MPH - Public Health Education
  • Hannah Reed, MPH - Infectious Disease
  • Lauren Smith, Accelerated MPH - Infectious Disease
  • Harper Lovegrove, MPH - Public Health Education
  • Jordan Mills, MPH - Public Health Education
  • Malik Outram, MPH - Infectious Disease
  • Emilie Schweikert, MPH - Infectious Disease and Public Health Education
  • Samantha Seay, MPH - Public Health Education
  • Steven Black, MPH - Public Health Education
  • Shelby Borowski, Simultaneous (PhD) MPH - Public Health Education
  • Taylor Holsinger, MPH - Infectious Disease & Public Health Education
  • Travis Oishi, MPH - Infectious Disease
  • Mariah Malachi, MPH - Public Health Education
  • Mari Shelton, MPH - Infectious Disease & Public Health Education
  • Kristina Jiles, Simultaneous (PhD) MPH - Public Health Education
  • Andrew Riddle, MPH - Public Health Education
  • Zana Shabani, MPH - Public Health Education