“It takes a village to raise a child” is an often-quoted African proverb. For Gustavus senior Alyssa Gaulrapp ’13, it took the leadership of a “village” consisting of two Gustavus alumni, two Gustavus administrators, and one Gustavus professor to create a new and alternative January Interim Experience public health internship opportunity in Atlanta at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.
“I could not have asked for a better experience in Atlanta,” Gaulrapp said after returning for Spring Semester. “This internship helped me grow as a person by gaining confidence and independence, and it grew my interest in public health.” She also established “life-long relationships” with several people that she met, and is excited about the internship’s potential. “I will remember this month for the rest of my life, and I look forward to what future students will experience with this internship.”
“The Gustavus community made Alyssa’s January Term internship happen” said Vince Thomas, Gustavus’s Internship Program Director. It started when Thomas met Gustavus alumnus Gordon Mansergh ’84, a Senior Behavioral Scientist in the HIV/AIDS Prevention Division of the CDC, during Homecoming Weekend in 2011. Dr. Mansergh wanted to give back to Gustavus by providing information to students about the great career opportunities in public health that he wished he’d had as a psychology major. Although he had already established the Mansergh Award, a grant to be used by Gustavus students to pay the travel costs associated with completing a public health internship with the federal government, he wanted to do more. He envisioned Gustavus students coming to the CDC’s Atlanta offices during the month of January to be introduced to public health careers.
At a Sesquicentennial luncheon for Atlanta area alumni in November of 2011, Dr. Mansergh shared his idea with Gustavus alumna Kristen Unzicker ‘00. They realized that the internship could have added value if it included the opportunity to spend time at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, where, conveniently, Unzicker serves as Director of Leadership and Community Engaged Learning. They proceeded to work with Thomas on the goal of establishing a 2013 January Term academic internship opportunity for Gustavus students that would allow interns to rotate between the CDC and Emory, and provide opportunities to experience Atlanta’s unique collection of cultural and social opportunities.
They immediately identified several obstacles. In addition to travel cost, Gustavus students without family or connections in Atlanta would need safe, practical, affordable housing for the month. Moreover, the absence of a Gustavus faculty member on the project team made it difficult to promote the internship and travel award opportunity to Gustavus students in the classroom or through academic advising.
Enter Gustavus Assistant Professor of Nursing and alumna Lynnea Myers ‘05. When Myers heard about the Atlanta Public Health Internship project, she identified several nursing majors who were interested in the internship and immediately spoke with both Thomas and Dr. Mansergh. With both interested students and an engaged faculty member, the project leapt forward. Thomas approached Jacqueline Brunsberg ‘81, the Gustavus Gift Planning Director who had worked with Dr. Mansergh to establish the Mansergh Award, and asked for her help in identifying Atlanta-area alumni who could assist with housing and provide a Gustavus connection in Atlanta outside of the internship site. Through her work, the project team located housing at Villa International-a residence used by long-term visitors to the CDC and Emory. Thomas then worked with Dr. Mansergh and the Gustavus Provost’s Office to facilitate the selection of both an intern and a recipient of the 2012-2013 Mansergh Award – with Gaulrapp being selected for both.
“Alyssa was the ideal student to be the first one to go down to Atlanta and participate in this remarkable internship,” Professor Myers said. “Because she’s flexible, open to new experiences, and creative.” A nursing and psychological science major and former member of Gustavus’s highly successful women’s hockey team, Gaulrapp decided to apply for the internship because of her interest in a career as a public health nurse.
“I applied for the internship because I knew I would gain a great deal of knowledge about the field of public health. I had a growing interest in public health after taking a semester long public health course with Professor Myers,” she said. “I also knew my background in both nursing and psychology would make my experience that much more rich and beneficial.”
During her four weeks in Atlanta, Gaulrapp helped establish a structure for future interns after gaining knowledge about public health through her research and experiences at the CDC and Rollins School of Public Health, volunteering in the community, and connecting with local Gustavus alumni. She also met and established relationships with individuals from around the world at Villa International, and explored Atlanta and all it has to offer.
“I learned so much more than I expected to, and because of my great experience, I look forward to seeing how public health will play a part in my future,” Gaulrapp said. Professor Myers, who accompanied Alyssa on her flight to Atlanta and then returned to assess her experience at the end of the month, agrees. “This was a fantastic experience,” Myers said. “The experiences Alyssa had at the Emory School of Public Health and the CDC were really quite amazing and have the potential to be a premier internship for our students.”
Gaulrapp’s experience was about more than just learning about public health and exploring a potential career. “Alyssa wasn’t just a public health career intern last month, she was a leader,” Thomas said. “She blazed a trail for other Gustavus students to follow.” Although it took the vision, leadership, and team work of Gustavus alumni, faculty, and administrators to create Alyssa’s 2013 January Term internship, Thomas is looking forward to next January. “My ‘Atlanta team,’” he said “is already talking about it!”
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