Columbia Grad Student Reflects on her Experiential Learning at Loyola
Alexandra Luterek took the time to share her experiences through the CEL's service learning and undergraduate research programs, and how they've influenced her career decisions and current educational endeavors. For her, a service-learning course led to a research project supported by a Provost Fellowship. The following is her account:
I became a LUROP Provost Fellow after taking a service-learning course with Dr. Julia Pryce (Social Work) my sophomore year. My involvement with her research on Project MENTOR extended beyond the time of my summer fellowship, and it is an experience I continue to draw on in personal and professional ways. Project MENTOR evaluated the effect of mentoring and comprehensive community-based programming on reducing risky health behaviors of youth living in the Englewood and Woodlawn communities. I helped facilitate a community-based participatory research project on sexual health and violence, where I worked alongside teens as they completed a research project and presented their findings to the community and at a Loyola School of Social Work Symposium.
Through working with researchers and youth and community members, I learned about the complexities of the research process, effective mentoring programming, and community health from a variety of angles, which I feel has allowed me to develop a unique public health perspective and skill set. My LUROP experience allowed me to experience firsthand how academia can positively engage with the surrounding community. It greatly influenced my interests in exploring the relationships between policy, economics, and community health outcomes further in graduate school. I believe that the greatest advantage of my fellowship, however, was being able to develop a close working relationship with my faculty mentor. Not only was I able to learn from Dr. Pryce’s expertise as a researcher and professional in the field, but her feedback, guidance, and support throughout my fellowship and beyond has been absolutely priceless in helping me develop my interests and achieve personal and professional goals.
Upon graduation, I worked at Health and Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG), a policy center dedicated to promoting social justice and challenging health care inequities. My focus was providing staff support to the Illinois Department of Public Health Healthcare Workforce Workgroup, working alongside state level health leaders to lay out a plan for workforce development in preparation of implementation of the Affordable Care Act. I had the unique opportunity of seeing how policy that ultimately affects communities is shaped at a much broader level.
Currently I am pursuing my MPH at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in the department of Health Policy and Management, with a certificate in the social determinants of health. Among my interests are health systems reform, maternal and child health, and community based research. My goal is to become a leader in the field of public health, working on shaping policy that is informed by the participation and engagement of the local community.