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Public Health Program 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. 

2022 - 2023 Undergraduate (BSPH) Student Ambassadors

Photo of Ayman Belafia
Ayman Belafia
Photo of Grace DiGirolamo
Grace DiGirolamo
Photo of Vineela Eppe
Vineela Eppe
Photo of Hailey Hollerbach
Hailey Hollerbach
Photo of Louisa Obenwa
Louisa Obenwa
Photo of Brooke Sheridan
Brooke Sheridan

Hello! My name is Ayman Belafia, and I'm from Arlington, Virginia. I'm majoring in Public Health and double minoring in Global Business Practices to Improve the Human Condition and Pathways to Sustainability. Upon graduating in Spring 2023, I plan to receive my Master of Public Health while living in a major city. 

Initially, I came to Virginia Tech as a Neuroscience major and switched to Public Health shortly after completing my first semester. Being from Morocco and exposed to various healthcare systems worldwide, I found that my interests lie more in addressing healthcare disparities on a global scale. The Public Health curriculum at Virginia Tech combines both humanities and STEM courses, ultimately allowing students to gain valuable expertise in several areas. Virginia Tech fosters a tight-knit community where everyone is always happy to lend a helping hand, making being a student a positive experience for me. 

I look forward to serving as a BSPH Ambassador because I want to encourage students interested in the field to pursue it. The ongoing pandemic has shown us more than ever how relevant the field of Public Health is. That said, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.

Email Ayman: aymanb@vt.edu

My name is Grace DiGirolamo, and I am from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I am majoring in Public Health and minoring in Spanish. I will be graduating in May 2023 and continuing my education at Virginia Tech in the Accelerated MPH Program with a concentration in Infectious Disease. After completing my MPH I hope to attend medical school.

I knew I wanted to attend a school with a focus on research, and originally came in as a Neuroscience major. When the COVID-19 pandemic began my Freshman year I quickly became interested in Public Health. When I started college, the Public Health Program at VT was newer, and I did not know it was an option when I enrolled. As soon as I took my first public health course I knew this program was a great fit. I have had so many hands-on experiences and been given countless opportunities to embody Virginia Tech’s motto, “Ut Prosim”, “That I may serve”. I chose to pursue graduate school at Virginia Tech because of the One Health focus of the program, and because I love the sense of community at VT.

As a student ambassador, I hope to help continue to grow the Public Health Program. Public health is such a large field, and all the different career options can be overwhelming. I hope to be a resource, and help students discover what they are passionate about. Please reach out to me with any questions!

Email Grace: gracedigi@vt.edu

My name is Vineela Eppe, and I am from Chantilly, Virginia. I am majoring in Public Health and will be adding a minor in Computer Science. I will be graduating in May 2024. I am currently thinking about applying to PA schools but am interested in exploring the field of Public Health as well. 

I came into Virginia Tech as a Biology major, and I intended to follow a pre-medicine track, but I shortly realized that my interests aligned more closely with Public Health. I was impressed with how vast the field of Public Health was and I was excited to still find a major that would allow me to pursue a career in health! Overall, I have loved the classes I have taken so far and how they have expanded my interests into fields I would not have considered before, such as health policy! 

I wanted to become a student ambassador to encourage others to consider Public Health as a major as well as to integrate myself with current students in the program to both learn from them as well as help upcoming students as well! I’d love to answer any questions or even just chat, please feel free to reach out to me!

Email Vineela: vineelaeppe@vt.edu

Hi! My name is Hailey Hollerbach, and I am from Northern Virginia. I am majoring in Public Health with a minor in Business and will be graduating in May 2023. Following graduation, I plan to attend graduate school to receive an MPH.

As a senior in high school who had no idea where they wanted to attend college, I decided to attend Virginia Tech because it truly felt like home every time I visited before I was a student. Arriving in the fall of my freshman year of college, my original plan was to get my bachelor’s degree in Finance and then go on to get my MPH. It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year of college, having taken some Public Health classes for my minor at the time, that I realized that I did not want to work on the management side of healthcare, but rather focus on community health and health education. That feeling of home that drew me to Virginia Tech is personified within the community of the Public Health Program here at Tech.

As a student ambassador, I want to continue to grow the undergraduate Public Health Program. I want to be a resource for prospective, incoming, and current students to talk to and ask questions. Anywhere from classes and professors to my own experience of transferring into the major. Please feel free to contact me by email if you have any questions at all! 

Email Hailey: haileyhollerbach@vt.edu

Hello everyone! My name is Louisa Obenwa and I’m from Alexandria, VA, otherwise commonly known as “ NOVA”.  I’ll be entering my senior year Fall 2022, which is equally sad and exciting. I’m currently a Public Health major with minors in Sociology and Health Communication. 

Virginia Tech has always been a special school in my heart, and I knew immediately once I stepped foot on the campus that I wanted to go here. I’ve always had a passion for sciences, which is why I initially enrolled in Virginia Tech as a Biological Sciences major my Freshman year. I quickly realized that I was unhappy with what I was studying but knew I still wanted to pursue a major that’s STEM related. Thankfully, I was able to come across the newly introduced Public Health major at Tech, and surely enough I fell in love with the program. It felt incredibly important and relevant with our current situation given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. What I admire most about the program is how niche it is and how it allows me the opportunity to explore a broad spectrum of health related positions.

As for being a VT Student Ambassador for Public Health, I wanted to immerse myself further into my major and build long term relationships with other ambassadors, MPH and BSPH students and alumni, along with Public Health faculty and staff. I’m currently a Public Health Ambassador for the New River Valley area, also known as “ Covid Crushers” and I’ve noticed how rewarding it feels to help out my community during these difficult times. There’s so much experience to gain as an undergraduate student, and I wish to be able to put myself out there and help others understand and see how rewarding the Public Health program can be!

Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or simply want a peer to chat with - I love meeting new people!

Email Louisa: louisao@vt.edu

My name is Brooke Sheridan and I am from Midlothian, Virginia. I am a public health major taking pre-physician assistant courses and graduating in Spring 2023. I hope to continue my studies in public health by receiving a dual Physician Assistant and MPH degree after graduation.

I wanted to major in public health because I have always had a passion for helping others. I felt like this major would combine this passion and my interest in the medical field by providing a broad understanding of population health. Through this program, I have been able to learn more about the community around me and the world as a whole. As a future practitioner, I hope that I am able to apply what I have learned to improve our healthcare system and better serve vulnerable populations.  

The BSPH course work, professors, and community at Virginia Tech make Blacksburg feel like home through a shared passion for helping others. This community is so special to me and I have enjoyed serving them through my work as an EMT and a member of the Medical Reserve Corps in New River Valley. I hope to give prospective and current BSPH students a well-rounded insight into what being a student here is like and assist them in whatever their endeavors here may be! Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions. 

Email Brooke: brookeaileen17@vt.edu

2021 - 2022 Graduate (MPH) Student Ambassadors

Photo of Sarah Dixon
Sarah Dixon
Photo of Carley Elliott
Carley Elliott
Photo of Sam Rodgers
Sam Rodgers
Julia U
Julia Utting
Photo of Domenique Villani
Domenique Villani

Hello! My name is Sarah and I am in the Accelerated MPH Program. I am from Laurel, Maryland, but have come to love the Blacksburg area. I transferred into Tech my junior year in 2020. I got my Bachelors in Public Health and I am currently in the MPH concentration of Infectious Disease. 

I want to go into woman’s health. My goal is to do research at Planned Parenthood, and maybe one day get my PhD. Other areas of interest of mine are; addiction, bioterrorism, and infectious diseases. I am currently working at the Virginia Tech’s Center for Gerontology as a research assistant. 

I chose to be an ambassador because from experience, starting this masters program during my senior year was a little overwhelming. I want to do what I can to make the transition and process easy and as stress free as possible for everyone! Feel free to reach out with any questions! 

Email Sarah: sarahed20@vt.edu

Hi! My name is Carley Elliott and I am originally from Richmond, Virginia but have been loving life in Blacksburg for the past 5 years. I graduated from Virginia Tech in May of 2021 with a B.S. in Animal and Poultry Sciences with a minor in Horticulture. Throughout my undergraduate education, I tried to piece together a curriculum that incorporated human, animal, and environmental health. It wasn’t until my junior year that I accidentally stumbled upon the concept of One Health, which happened to be exactly the path I had spent years searching for. This inspired me to continue my education with the Master of Public Health program in the Infectious Disease concentration.

My interest in public health is directly connected to how humans interact with animals and the environment and all that can be learned from analyzing these complex dynamics. I have been given the opportunity to work in a Calf Lab in which we study Cryptosporidium, a microscopic parasite, and its transmission dynamics between cattle, children, and the environment. This research has allowed me to implement the many practical skills I have acquired throughout the MPH program into a clinical setting while also providing a first hand look into One Health and Infectious Disease practices in action.

My interest in becoming a student ambassador stems from my love for this program and its emphasis on One Health. I believe that representing a diverse background of health sciences coupled with encouraging prospective and current students to explore the countless career options in the Public Health field will be both a rewarding and educational experience, as I myself am continuing to learn and grow each day throughout my time in this program.

Email Carley: carleye6@vt.edu

My name is Sam Rodgers, and I am from Concord, NC. I am currently in both the Infectious Disease and Public Health Education concentrations. I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 with a B.S. in Biological Systems Engineering, with a focus on biomedical engineering. I decided to continue my academic career in the field of public health to build translatable skills, gain enhanced experiences, and complement my biomedical engineering background.

My interest in public health stems from a pair of experiences I gained during my time in undergrad. Working with an engineering team to create biomedical devices for low-to-middle income countries taught me how people with biomedical backgrounds can come into the public health field and bring varied but necessary skills and perspectives. Taking part in a pre-health club that ran medical clinics and public health services in Latin America taught me the value of approaching public health issues holistically in order to create sustainable change.

These experiences brought me to the Virginia Tech MPH. I became an ambassador because I come from a unique background than the majority of MPH candidates, and can help guide students down the path they want to take. Feel free to email me with any questions. 

Email Sam: samr@vt.edu

My name is Julia Utting and I am from Annandale, Virginia. I am in the Infectious Disease concentration for my MPH and the Public/Corporate Track for my DVM. I graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Animal and Poultry Science in May of 2020. Shortly after graduation, I started my MPH classes during Summer 2020, and will take my second set of summer courses after my third year in the DVM program. I plan on completing both degrees by Spring of 2024.

My interest in public health is connected with my interest in wildlife medicine and One Health. I started an internship with the CDC One Health Office during Summer 2021, working on the global zoonotic disease database for the One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization (OHZDP). I hope to use the knowledge and experience gained through my MPH and this internship to lead me into a career working with wildlife health/conservation and zoonotic diseases on a global level.

During my first year in the DVM/MPH program, I have utilized the program’s connection with the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) to help vaccinate the NRV community and Virginia Tech’s student body during the COVID pandemic as a veterinary student volunteer. After just one year in the VT MPH program, I have already gained more public health experience and opportunities than I could’ve imagined, helping me reach my future goals. Now, I want to help others achieve their careers goals. I became an ambassador for both the MPH and DVM programs to be a source of contact and information for students interested in both programs. Feel free to contact me through email for any questions or to chat!

Email Julia: juliau4@vt.edu

Hi there! I’m Domenique Villani, and I am a Master of Public Health student studying infectious disease and public health education. Outside of the MPH program, I am also a registered nurse and received my Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Villanova University. Since graduating, I have worked as an RN at large academic medical centers and small community hospitals, which has given me a better understanding of the resources available as well as the challenges found in various health systems. 

To me, a public health education provides the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to build long-term sustainable changes. Virginia Tech has been a great match as I found the focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and community driven solutions that initially drew me to public health is also valued and promoted here. 

I became an ambassador in hopes of offering the same support to students that I have been lucky to receive from the MPH program. I am excited to share my experience and serve as a resource for your MPH and graduate life questions. If you are considering Virginia Tech or are a current student, please feel free to reach out!

Email Domenique: domenique@vt.edu


Student Ambassador Alumni

BSPH

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

MPH

  • 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
  • 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