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Champions of health

2019 graduates confront health disparities at home and abroad

On June 15, students from the College of Public Health and Human Sciences celebrated their commencement at Reser Stadium. Their degrees and futures are diverse, but these graduates have a common vision and purpose – to improve health and well-being for all.

Cecilia Mehue

BS in Human Development and Family Sciences
Destination: MBA, OSU College of Business

Thanks to a scholarship provided by the government of Papua province in Indonesia, Cecilia was selected to pursue a degree abroad. She, in turn, selected Oregon State University and ultimately chose to major in human development and family sciences.

Her educational pursuits are driven by one goal – to return to Papua to start a nonprofit to support women’s autonomy and independence in Indonesia. And she’s already getting started.

For her internship, she returned to Indonesia with Compassion First, a non-profit based in Beaverton, Oregon. While in Indonesia, she worked with young girls who were survivors of sex trafficking. She taught them critical thinking skills and nutrition, and she taught the local staff English. In September, she will pursue her MBA in the OSU College of Business with her sights set on helping women and girls in her home country.

Kyle Miller

BS in Kinesiology
Destination: School of Nursing, Vanderbilt University

Kyle started as a fish and wildlife major, but after two weeks volunteering in an emergency room, he realized he wanted to work in a medical setting.

He chose to major in kinesiology because of the emphasis on anatomy and applied science – topics he knows will apply to his future career as a nurse practitioner. Also, he likes to interact with people, he says.

While at Oregon State, Kyle worked at the Memorial Union and played the saxophone in the marching band.

This fall, he’ll begin taking classes at Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing and is looking forward to working in acute care, helping his patients heal.

Jenna Fitzgerald

BS in Public Health — Health Promotion and Health Behavior
Destination: Master of Science in nursing, Johns Hopkins University

Jenna is graduating with an honors baccalaureate in public health and will be pursuing a master of science in nursing at Johns Hopkins University in the fall. She says her public health background will allow her to serve patients holistically.

She developed this perspective by working on a variety of projects at Oregon State. For her Honors College thesis, she worked with Sam Logan in the Social Mobility Lab, where she focused on the impact of primary caregiver education and family income and their impact on the use of modified ride-on cars among children with disabilities.

Instead of completing the one required internship, Jenna chose to pursue two. Her first internship was in Cape Town, South Africa, where she worked with at-risk adolescent boys and created health promotion programs and materials. Jenna also interned at Benton County Health Department, where she worked on a health impact assessment to examine how the legalization of retail cannabis is impacting Benton County.

Jenna says being in the Honors College was a significant part of her educational experience at Oregon State. Through the thesis requirement, she developed a love for research, as well as skills she hopes to use in her future career.

Amanda Dardis

BS in Nutrition – Dietetics
Destination: Dietetics internship, UC Davis Medical Center

Amanda chose to major in nutrition after personal struggles with eating in high school. Her goal is to prevent others from making the same mistake.

While attending Oregon State, Amanda worked with the OSU Athletics sports dietician. She says they were responsible for making sure the athletes were properly fed and hydrated, and provided nutrition education. “We gave them the support they needed beyond the main coaching staff,” she says. “I enjoyed helping the athletes achieve their goals and perform at their very best.”

For three years, Amanda volunteered with That’s My Farmer, a nutrition education program for local cancer survivors offered through Samaritan Health Services.

After graduation, Amanda will complete her dietetics internship at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, California. She plans to become a registered dietitian and work in a disease prevention and nutrition education setting.

Hyunyup Lee

PhD in Human Development and Family Studies
Destination: Korean Military Academy

Hyunyup is doing groundbreaking work in aging and mental health, specializing in the long-term effects of combat in older veterans. In an American sample of WWII veterans, he found only those with combat experience showed increases in psychological symptoms in late life. From a sample of Koreans who fought in the Vietnam War, he found 39 percent were still reporting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms 45 years after the war.

After graduation, Hyunyup will return to South Korea to teach at the military academy and continue researching PTSD among Vietnam War veterans.

Samantha Ross

PhD in Kinesiology – Adapted Physical Activity
MPH – Epidemiology
Destination: College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, West Virginia University

After working at an adaptive horse riding and therapy facility, Samantha knew she wanted to dedicate her life to working with youth with disabilities and their families. She chose Oregon State University to help fulfill this goal after learning about the college’s Social Mobility Lab.

Samantha maximized her time at OSU. After earning her master’s degree in exercise and sport science, she started pursuing a master’s degree in public health and a PhD in kinesiology. Every Friday, she volunteered with IMPACT and helped launch IMPACT for Life.

She has published 13 peer-review articles and has received a number of awards, including the Steve Skaggs Award of Excellence (OSU, 2018), American Kinesiology Association Writing Award (2018), Thayer Fellowship (CPHHS), Dublin Fellowship (CPHHS) and the President’s Commission on Status of Women Scholarship.

In August, she will join West Virginia University as an assistant professor in the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences.