New Brown School Students Share Passion for Positive Change

Public Health; Social Work; Students

Our incoming class — 63 Master of Public Health students, 209 Master of Social Work student and six MSW/MPH dual-degree students, who come from 40 states and territories, as well as 18 countries — reflects diverse backgrounds and academic and professional passions. Learn some the ways they view their work and how they want to make an impact at the Brown School and beyond.

“Honestly the more I learn about public health, the more I see that everything I’ve experienced and had the chance to reflect on has led me toward a career in public health. I’ve been able to experience a bizarre mixture of urban and suburban, diversity and uniformity, comfort and struggles in the communities I went to school in, grew up in, with my family, and the people I have befriended. I have seen systemic determinants of health tick away years of my family members’ lives, and I watched the power of education and illumination of possibilities improve my own self-worth and mental health throughout my undergrad years. This field is so broad, but so intermingled, like all people’s lives are—and that realization has truly inspired me.”

Derek Holland, incoming MPH student

“The experience that has probably most inspired me to pursue a career in social work was being raised by a determined and supportive single mother and helping her raise my younger siblings. Some of these experiences were quite challenging, but I persevered, which showed me that if a person has a positive support system, is connected to resources, and encouraged to pursue great opportunities, that positive change can happen. In essence, this is what I believe social work is about. In my undergraduate work, I studied the impacts of oppression, discrimination and socialization. This educational experience changed my world and helped me learn the language to explain my own personal experiences, which was quite empowering and motivated me to want to help others, especially members of the Navajo Nation and other Native Nations.”

Apryl Joe, incoming MSW student

“I grew up in an immigrant family living in a neighborhood where there were low levels of education and employment. Because of social circumstances, opportunities were limited including access to fresh foods, clinicians and safe public areas. Though not obvious to me growing up, my education in public health has revealed to me the relevance that social factors have on a community’s health. Public health has taught me to look at the bigger picture. I am interested in health systems designs on all levels, local to international, and utilizing available community resources to design a sustainable healthcare system.”

Eda He, incoming MPH student

“I started volunteering with Planned Parenthood at age 14 through a peer education [program] called Project T.R.U.S.T, which created the foundation of my commitment to social justice, reproductive/sexual health, and education. Using this foundational lens while working in Detroit Public Schools, I realized that queer spaces for LGBTQ youth are desperately needed in public school settings. I hope to investigate ways to create those spaces, as well as incorporate comprehensive anti-bullying procedures and LGBTQ-inclusive curricula within the public school system. I also want to find ways to incorporate service learning to empower LGBTQ youth and create the next generation of public servants and activists.”

Michael Gendernalik, incoming MSW student 

“…Social revolutions will happen when there is compassionate partnership between organizations. … Establishing an “Us versus Them” mentality does not hold true to our code of ethics. I believe social workers can creatively incentivize and show those outside of the field how investing into the community benefits everyone. This trust in creative partnership is something I believe the Brown School holds dear and ultimately led me to commit to the School.”

Danny Lee, incoming MSW student