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Alumna Spotlight on Mallory Edgar
Mallory is an Illinois native currently living in Milwaukee, WI, where she is in the middle of a two-year stint as a Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellow. Since leaving Urbana-Champaign, she has also worked and studied in the public health field in both Chicago, IL, and Ann Arbor, MI.
What year did you graduate? What was your major/minor?
I graduated with my BA from UIUC in May 2009. After a brief foray into anthropology, I ended my undergraduate career with a double major in sociology and GWS.
What did you enjoy most about GWS? What was your favorite course?
It’s really difficult to pick just one favorite course! The classes that I remember most vividly and most fondly would probably be Intro to Feminist Theory and Sex, Power, & Politics, both taught by Sam Frost. These classes were the first ones that introduced me to complicated theories and challenged me to sort through their logic and to consider their philosophical and social implications. Professor Frost is wickedly intelligent and so talented at explaining complex topics in a way that is both clear and compelling. (I took four classes with her, and she definitely stretched my brain in new and important ways.) I also really enjoyed History of Medicine, a cross-listed history course taught by Leslie Reagan. Learning more about the history of the health professions – particularly through a critical lens that considered issues of race, sex, gender, etc. – actually helped to solidify my interest in public health.
Why would you recommend GWS to undergraduate or graduate students?
There are few other courses of study where you can get the experiences you’ll obtain in GWS. I have multiple friends whose majors were traditionally “hard” sciences where rote memorization and singular truths dominated their academic lives. If and when they had the chance to take courses in the social sciences or humanities, they talked about how different/strange/challenging/refreshing it was to sit in a room with others and have real discussions, complete with disagreements and debates. They noted how, for perhaps the first time, they were asked to be truly analytical about the world around them and the social spaces they occupied within it. As a GWS major, I often took for granted the fact that essentially every class I took was like this! That said, what GWS really did for me was make me into a better thinker and a more conscious human. The things you learn and talk about in GWS courses are often confusing and heavy and infuriating, but they are also incredibly interesting and pretty darn important.
How did your background in GWS apply to your life after graduation?
After graduation, I moved to Chicago, where I worked for two years, doing a combination of direct service and prevention advocacy in the HIV field and research in the area of LGBTQ youth health and development. In the fall of 2011, I moved to Ann Arbor to begin my graduate work in public health at the University of Michigan. I spent two years there, working toward my MPH in Health Behavior and Health Education, all the while working as a graduate research assistant at the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities. When I finished my graduate work, I moved on to my current fellowship, where my work continues to focus on sexual health and sexuality-based health disparities.
In case it isn’t already obvious how GWS has continued to play into the work I’ve done since graduation, here’s the answer: GWS is everywhere, especially in public health. As public health practitioners, we spend so much of our time examining how the burden of disease, injury, and premature death is disproportionately borne by certain socially-constructed groups. We talk about social determinants of health (e.g., economic inequality, racism, sexism, heterosexism) as the root causes of so many of the health inequities we observe today. And we talk about how we can build programs and policies that consider things like identity and culture, that challenge systems of oppression and unjust power dynamics, and that ultimately (hopefully) eliminate inequities. Truly, any public health professional worth their salt is always thinking about the topics that are at the heart of so many GWS courses.
What are you up to now?
Right now, I’m about a year and a half into a two-year fellowship sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. I have a dual fellowship placement at the City of Milwaukee Health Department and a local LGBTQ public health organization called Diverse & Resilient. At the health department, my work has focused mostly on trying to improve sexual health promotion and STI prevention activities in the city. At Diverse & Resilient, where the bulk of my work as a fellow has taken place, I’ve done a lot of assessment work as part of program planning activities aimed at addressing LGBTQ health disparities in the city and in public school settings specifically. I’ll be wrapping up my time in the fellowship in the spring of 2015 and looking to land a public health program planning and/or evaluation job in Chicago or Milwaukee.