Finding Synergies Between Public Health and Education: An Alumna Interview with Isabel Garcia (SESP 2015)

Name: Isabel Garcia (SESP 2015)
Majors: Social Policy, International Studies
Minor: Global Health

IMG_5822What did you do after graduation and where are you now?

I graduated this past June, and at the end of August I boarded a one-way flight to Mexico City. Thanks to the Princeton in Latin America (PiLA) fellowship, I have spent the past 8 months working with an education policy think tank called Redes de Tutoría. I spend every day working with and thinking about a pedagogical model called tutoría.

Tutoría promotes individualized learning through one-on-one relationships between a tutor and a learner, with the intention that each learner will transform into a tutor for a future peer, thus transforming one-way “teacher-learner” relationships into bidirectional ones.

What projects are you currently working on? What’s an average day like for you?

I write this post from Chihuahua, a northern state about 16 hours away from where I was last week in Mexico City, and about 11 hours from Guachochi, the rural community I will be in next week. This is all to say there is no such thing as an average day.

I am currently working in the field to help train educational authorities in the model, next week we will train teachers, and the following week we will bring the model into to the classrooms. The central project I worked on this year has been designing a website for teachers practicing tutoría. The website includes a virtual library with a catalogue of all the lesson plans, an interactive map with contact information to connect our teachers, and a space for participants to share their own tutoría lessons as well as their experiences.

How did your global health studies at NU influence your career choice and even life in general?

I was introduced to public health as a field through the global health program, which has been the greatest influence on my career choice. Though this year I am not directly working with health, I view my engagement in both health and education not as parallel tracks, but rather, as synergies, and moving forward plan to use tutoría as a tool to decrease health disparities and increase health literacy through education.

IMG_8509Where did you study abroad and how has it influenced you?

I studied abroad summer 2013 in Santiago, Chile. My experience abroad inspired a love for Latin America, which has obviously taken me to where I am today. While in Chile, I had the privilege of working with a community health organization grounded in local participation and empowerment. I immersed myself in this participatory model, and learned that the most direct way to teach, and learn, is to initiate dialogue, which has influenced every interaction I have had this year.

Do you have any advice for students looking for work following graduation?

The first thing I’ll say is that your first job is not going to be your last job. Though it might feel like your job after college has to be perfect in order to start off on the right foot, have faith that you will get to where you want to go, when it is time to get there. Find that job that makes sense for you right now, in this moment, not the one you want in 10 years.

(PS. This is coming from someone who supposedly wants to dedicate her life to public health, but has no idea what that will look like yet…and that’s okay.)

What’s one life lesson that you have learned since you started working?

Leaving the Northwestern bubble will provide many unexpected, seemingly scary opportunities. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Living in fear does not protect us; it just prevents us from living our lives.

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