Northwestern University will send a team to Atlanta to compete at the 2013 International Emory Global Health Case Competition hosted by Emory University over the weekend of March 23rd. Alina Dunbar – one of the students set to rep NU as part of the 2013 team – recently talked to us about her journey to global health, the experience of being on the team and her hopes and fears for the March competition in an email interview.
Hometown: San Antonio, TX
Major: Anthropology & International Studies / Minor in Global Health Studies
How did you first become interested in the subject of global health?
My interest in global health began during my sophomore year. I was working with a professor in the African Studies department as part of the Fellow Assistant Research Award program through the Office of Residential Colleges and analyzing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa. Out of that project I was able to apply for an Undergraduate Research Grant and spend two months in South Africa in 2011, which undoubtedly has been the best part of my Northwestern experience (even though I was ironically out of the country at the time).
What are your favorite aspects and/or areas of study within the context of global health?
As an anthropologist, I’m fascinated by the social and cultural aspects of disease. My senior honors project is about the metaphors of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, and more generally about how diseases become laden with all sorts of socioeconomic and cultural markers. (I’m a big fan of Susan Sontag’s work, incidentally).
What do you hope to get out of the experience of being on the team?
Even though we’ve only been working together for about a month now, I feel like I’ve already learned so much from everyone on the team. The range of experience and background is amazing, and I enjoy learning how other people unpack problems and design solutions. I’m hoping this experience will push me to participate in similarly collaborative projects in the future.
What are your biggest expectations and, on the flipside, fears going into the national competition?
The competition is a little intimidating, of course! We’ve heard many tales of overqualified judges and innovative presentations by this point, so I think the important thing is that we remember to stay grounded. Regardless of what place we receive, I hope that we genuinely enjoy our stay in Atlanta.
In your opinion, what gives the NU team a unique edge going into the event or sets it apart from other teams?
I think it’s wonderful that Northwestern has such a variety of schools to pull from–we have a Kellogg student, an MPH candidate, three undergraduates, and a medical student on the team. I think this range will help us create a dynamic presentation. We might have other advantages, too, but probably won’t realize them until we’ve had the chance to observe some of the other teams in action!
How has the experience of being on the team changed/shaped you academically, personally and professionally?
This is really the first time I’ve had the opportunity to work with a team to this extent. Sure, I’m involved with a variety of student organizations, but that’s not quite the same. This requires collaborative decision-making, and already I’ve found that I’m more receptive to others’ ideas.
For more information, visit http://globalhealth.northwestern.edu/announcements/GHCaseTeam2013.html.