Annabelle Lee '20
Public Health and the IS Major
The last time I wrote a short essay for the IS program, I was nervously applying for the major, hoping that my untraditional hopes for my trajectory in the program would earn me a spot. I came into BC as an economics major and knew I wanted to combine it with an international lens, but wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do beyond that. It wasn’t until I took Public Health in a Global Society during my freshman spring that I really felt I had found my calling. To me, public health gave a deeply humanitarian aspect to an understanding of economic and political structures, with an added focus on cultural awareness. To have any of those without the other would be missing a major part of the equation, and so I made it my mission to take advantage of International Studies’ strong foundation to create my own, even more interdisciplinary program of study.
Over the past few years, I’ve had moments where I’ve felt worried about BC’s lack of a formal public health program, and wondered if I was doing myself a disservice by staying at a school that didn’t have the resources for what I wanted to study and the career path I wanted to take. While this lack of formal support has certainly felt unnerving at times, I soon found that there were little pockets of knowledge and guidance across BC and within the IS program as long as I took the time to seek them out. I enrolled in the Global Public Health track in the Ethics and Social Justice concentration, reached out to professors about possible research opportunities, and was happily surprised when Prof. Erickson, whose Intro to IS course I took, asked students if htey were interested in speaking to IS alumni about opportunities in global public health. While I was disappointed during my sophomore and junior years about having limited course options relating to public health, the electives I took for my IS economics concentration (The Global Economy, Micro/Macro Theory, and Money, Banking, & Financial Markets) actually gave me a solid foundation for understanding different economic and social systems as well as how they intersect. In these classes, I was taught to look at countries and communities with a quantitative lens that has also translated into how I think about public health.
Fast forward to my senior year, and I would say things have worked out a lot better than I would’ve expected. This year, I’ve been lucky enough to enroll in the new Global Public Health minor, and many of my previous electives that I’ve taken through IS also count towards it. To my surprise, my GPH classes this semester (Epidemiology and Global Public Health Law) connect a lot of the concepts and ideas I’ve learned about over the past three years in IS. For my law class especially, when we talk about different actors’ incentives and how cultural norms are created and reinforced, it’s like I’m thrown right back to sophomore spring Intro to IS. I constantly find myself being reintroduced to ideas that my previous classes have touched on, except now with a public health lens, and it truly feels as though this course of study has prepared me for my future endeavors. I’m very grateful to have had an academic foundation through International Studies that gives me the structure and framework to have a more holistic, multifaceted understanding of different issues in public health, just as I hoped it would when I first applied.