Amaya Gatling helped grow Global Health Alliance student org – CALS News

Amaya Gatling, who grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, will be graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree. She is majoring in global health and life sciences communication. In this Q&A, she explains her decision to double major, her internship experiences, and her role expanding the Global Health Alliance student org.

Why did you choose your major?
I began undergrad as a biology major with a global health certificate; my ultimate goal was to become an obstetrician-gynecologist. However, I didn’t feel a passion for chemistry or other core science classes and started questioning if that was the right major for me. I added life sciences communication (LSC) as a double major after being introduced to the major by Tera Holtz Wagner during my LSC 100 course in the fall of 2019. When Global Health was announced as a new major during my sophomore year, I immediately switched to it from biology. In my first semester as a new global health major, I noticed a drastic difference in my enjoyment of and engagement in classes. Global health’s intersection with social justice and law encompasses my hodgepodge of academic interests and always keeps me wanting to know more. I focused my global health studies on women’s health, human rights, and public health in the United States. I learned that the only way forward, at least in terms of sustainable development, is together.

What other activities were you involved in?
I joined Global Health Alliance (GHA) shortly after declaring my major as global health to learn more about the field and meet more people. After being involved for a year, I was selected to serve as director of local partnerships for the 2021-2022 school year. This year, I am co-president and have gained invaluable project management and direction skills. In the summer of 2022, I completed an internship with Health Access Connect, an NGO bringing health services to remote Ugandan communities. I discovered this opportunity through the International Internship Program (IIP) and worked with other UW–Madison students in the remote position.

Additionally, I gained internship experience through my LSC coursework. The LSC major is amazing for providing opportunities to build practical skills. An internship component was included in two of the courses I took for the major, LSC 432, and my capstone, LSC 515. Through these courses, I served as a digital marketing intern for Wellacy Health, and a social marketing intern for Outagamie County.

What are your future academic and/or career plans?
After graduation, I am continuing my education at the University of Washington in their Master of Public Health (MPH) program. I was admitted to the Department of Global Health with a certificate in the Global Health of Women, Adolescents, and Children. My post-MPH career plan is to serve as a Maternal Child Health (MCH) practitioner in a federal or international agency involved in advocacy and direct service delivery, focusing on health literacy and education attainment as health-protective factors. My dream job exists within the United Nations or one of its branches, including the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) or International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Within these institutions, appropriate job titles for the work I would like to partake in include Clinical, Project Director, or Public Health Prevention Specialist.

What were the most valuable/meaningful college experiences you had?
I would say the events, like guest lectures – just taking advantage of opportunities. Plus meeting new people and developing relationships with them has added so much value to my college experience. Whether it was my Sellery 6B floormates, classmates in my courses, friends from GHA, or meeting a friend of a friend, the relationships I created during this time truly changed the trajectory of my life. I see everyone as a teacher that helps me learn more about myself and what drives me. While it has been especially nice making friends who have similar career interests as me, exposure to a variety of people has been especially fruitful. I am so excited to see the different paths people take and hope to share spaces with similar faces again one day.

Gatling with fellow members and faculty advisor of the Global Health Alliance student org.

When you think about your time here as a student, what are you proud of?
I am very proud of the growth of GHA under my leadership. When I joined the student organization in 2020, there were about five general members beyond the executive board members. We had so much value to offer but did not have recruitment levels that enabled as powerful of an impact as we sought. Through my co-president and former director of local partnerships roles, I helped connect GHA to over five Madison community organizations and ten registered student organization campus partners. Each organization uniquely contributes to improving health equity, the goal of our organization, and allows us to extend our community. My co-president, Katelyn Sesolak, and I have increased active membership by over 25 from our social media optimization efforts, organization fair attendance, and faculty outreach initiatives. Finally, our application for the Student Organization Partnership Program (SOPP) at the Morgridge Center for Public Service for the 2023-2024 school year was recently approved. Thus, next year, our organization will be affiliated with the Morgridge Center and will receive a grant for a sustained community project with Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS). I am happy with the state I am leaving GHA in and am so excited to see how the organization continues to grow after I leave.

Do you have any advice you’d like to share with CALS students?
Take advantage of campus events, keynote lectures, and the notoriety of professors here! There is so much expertise present at UW–Madison and I have made important professional connections by attending events related to my major or career interests. I only started this year, but I wish I started attending sooner! Networking and professional development are equally as important as coursework for many majors and career paths. Make the time! Your future self will thank you.

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