Alumni Features

Bright future ahead for CPHHS graduates, writing award recipients

Two 2016 CPHHS public health graduates and recipients of an OSU Writing Intensive Curriculum Culture of Writing Award are both headed to graduate school. While in their undergraduate programs, Alyssa Rollins and Kodasha Thomas were recognized for their steadfastness and commitment to public health issues by their professors.

Alyssa in front of Reser Stadium at OSU’s 2016 commencement ceremony on June 11

Two 2016 CPHHS public health graduates and recipients of an OSU Writing Intensive Curriculum Culture of Writing Award are both headed to graduate school. While in their undergraduate programs, Alyssa Rollins and Kodasha Thomas were recognized for their steadfastness and commitment to public health issues by their professors.

The WIC Culture of Writing Award was created to recognize outstanding student work throughout the various units at OSU. The award strives to create a culture where good writing is valued and recognized. Participating units throughout the university select and nominate the best student work and awardees are selected by faculty within the nominee’s respective field.

Alyssa Rollins

Alyssa says that although she and her classmates knew Professor Peggy Dolcini would be selecting one of their projects for a 2016 WIC Culture of Writing Award, she was shocked and honored to receive the nomination. She also received the news at a pivotal time – a few hours before she took the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). She says it was a positive way to start such an important new journey and a great way to cap off her time at OSU.

“Alyssa exemplifies the focus and enthusiasm that we hope to foster in public health undergraduates. Her program plan addresses teen pregnancy, an important public health issue,” Peggy adds. “In her plan, she proposes to build on the current evidence base by adapting an existing program for a new population and incorporating technology in program delivery. Alyssa’s work shows a solid knowledge of the field, creativity and excellent writing skills.”

Now that Alyssa has completed her undergraduate degree, she is moving home to northern California to gain more hands-on experience before beginning graduate school in Fall 2017. She plans to pursue a Master of Education degree in Higher Education Administration, Student Affairs.

“I enjoyed my time in public health, especially my H410 internship at Student Health Services here on campus, and I intend on integrating my passion into my every day life,” she says. “However, as far as my future career goes, my calling is in higher education administration, where I will be able to work at a university in student affairs, mentoring college students during a very transitional time in their lives.”

Alyssa says that being involved with outside activities at OSU helped her recognize her interest in higher education administration. “This helped me grow immensely as a woman and a world citizen, and in turn fueled my success in academics, leadership and service. I credit this growth to my many mentors here are OSU, and I would be honored to have the opportunity to make a positive impact in future students’ lives by becoming a mentor myself,” she says.

She leaves OSU with many memorable moments, but walking at graduation tops the list.

“Walking into Reser with my classmates and colleagues was a surreal experience, and for the first time I felt incredibly proud of myself for everything I had accomplished while here at OSU with the help of so many special people in my life.”

Alyssa also says that defending and completing her Honors College undergraduate thesis is another unforgettable moment. She was hesitant in accepting admission into the UHC as a freshman because the thesis process seemed daunting. In reality, the experience turned out to be one the best experiences she had during her college experience.

Alyssa’s path to a public health major came later in her journey, when she realized it was what she truly enjoyed. Her original major was in dietetics, with a minor in public health. When she realized she wasn’t enjoying her dietetics classes, she concluded that there was another path. She did some research and soul searching and realized that she loved all the public health classes she was taking and that public health was a better fit. She followed her passion by changing her major and still graduated on time.

She has similar advice for other public health students. “Explore the many avenues of this discipline and find your passion,” Alyssa says. “Don’t be afraid to change your mind if you aren’t happy with the first thing you pick. It took looking into many different areas of public health, including chronic disease management and pediatric nutrition, before I discovered that my favorite area of this field was maternal and child health. Once I discovered what focus area I enjoyed, I took every opportunity to relate my assignments and projects back to that. Your assignments become much more meaningful and relevant if you relate them back to where your passion lies.”

Kodasha Thomas

While Kodasha was enrolled in Professor Joseph Catania’s Public Health Program Planning course, the class was tasked with creating a detailed health program plan they would like to see implemented. Kodasha chose “Targeted Intervention to Reduce HIV Transmission – Atlanta, GA” because of her interest in health disparities and disease prevention. The paper focuses on preventing HIV in young black women. Her plan impressed Joseph, and he encouraged her to submit her project for a 2015 WIC award.

“Students are nominated for this award if they have achieved the basic standards of a WIC course’s major writing assignment, and then show excellence in writing organization and presentation in addition to illustrating a deep understanding of the public health program they have have selected for adaption to a high-risk population of their choosing,” Joseph says. “Kodasha represented the best of the best from my H476 classes over the past five years. I do not nominate students every year – only if a person shows exceptional ability.”

Kodasha on OSU’s campus during commencement

Kodasha has a host of fond experiences she will take with her from OSU. Topping her list of unforgettable moments is attending sporting events with friends, hanging at Dixon Recreational Center and pulling all-nighters in Valley Library during dead week.

She also appreciates the CPHHS events she attended, especially the Graduate School Fair, which inspired her to apply for a master’s program. She will be starting her master of public health degree this fall at Georgie State University in Atlanta.

Like Alyssa, Kodasha didn’t declare a public health major at the beginning of her journey. She was originally an Exercise and Sports Science major, but when she discovered public health and began taking courses, her interest was piqued.

“I choose public health because it is so broad that you can choose whatever specific path you like,” she says. “Public health can be applied to anything, and can take place in various settings. Because I love variety, and want to make positive and healthy changes for communities, public health is the perfect fit for me.”

Her future plans include a desire to head community programs at a hospital or community clinic, or working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kodasha says she also has a strong interest in psychology, so she may consider a career in health psychology.

Kodasha also has some practical advice for current public health students.

“My best advice is to take advantage of your experience in the major,” she says. “Public health can be what you make of it, but it’s up to you to make it a worthwhile experience. I would suggest volunteering for public health related sites and looking for internships that interest you. Creating a relationship with public health faculty is also key in your experience because it can lead to further opportunities in your education.”