By Kelly Falcone, MPH’23 in Environmental Health-Epidemiology
When I was deciding which graduate school to attend for my MPH, the most important factor for me was the opportunities I would have at school. I went to graduate school right after finishing my undergraduate degree and had no full-time work experience. So, attending a school with opportunities to gain work experience outside of the classroom while being a student was a top priority for me. The first time I visited Rollins I was so excited to find that the CDC is literally right across the street from campus. I then learned that many students at Rollins complete internships at CDC and I thought to myself—I want to be one of them.
Working at the CDC seemed like a far-off dream to me when I was in college. I never imagined that prior to finishing my master’s degree I would have held three roles at CDC—none of which would have been possible if I had chosen a different school. My first position was through the Office of the Associate Director for Policy and Strategy (OADPS) as a communications assistant. I had not considered working in communications until I started my position at OADPS, and I quickly realized the value of translating public health research into plain language. This role inspired me to continue seeking out communications positions so that I could practice taking concepts I learn in the classroom and explaining them to a wider audience.
I secured this position during October of my first year through the Rollins Earn and Learn (REAL) program. This program is awarded through the financial aid office and supports about 50% of Rollins students. You can learn more about the program here. There are many opportunities to work with CDC through REAL, often as a graduate research assistant or communications assistant. Once you are hired, it takes a bit of time to go through the background check and hiring process, so most students don’t begin their work with CDC until mid-October. Don’t have REAL? Not a problem, there are other opportunities to get involved at CDC!
Around March of my first year, I received an email from a faculty member in my department (environmental health) with a list of internships with CDC’s One Health Office to be completed over the summer. I learned that an alumnus from the environmental health department works in this office, and she sent the list of opportunities to the department to share with current students. This isn’t an email you get in your inbox everywhere, and I wouldn’t have known about this opportunity if it hadn’t been for the alum’s connection to Rollins.
I secured another the position as a communications assistant through CDC’s One Health Office and used this opportunity as my Applied Practice Experience (APE). I had the opportunity to go to the office weekly and participate in office wide meetings. As a member of the executive board for Emory Students for One Health, a student-led organization at Rollins, it was really valuable for me to serve in a role where I could learn more about a topic that I’m passionate about and create posts that were actually used by CDC on their social media platforms. This was the most hands-on internship I have had and I am grateful for Rollin’s strong connection with CDC, which allowed me to have this opportunity.
Lastly, I secured a REAL position for my second year with the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases—my dream office to work with at CDC. I’m looking forward to getting started and seeing what this opportunity brings!
There are many ways to get involved with CDC as a Rollins student including REAL, speaking with CDC representatives at career fairs, and even networking with alumni. The ability to work at a top public health agency while pursuing my master’s degree is a dream come true. My experiences at CDC have led me to want to pursue a career with a federal or state government agency. The positions I’ve had have given me great insight to working at a governmental agency, and I hope I can continue making an impact in the public health world through government work. I learned a great deal of new skills, enhanced my communication skills, and connected with many people who all share a passion for public health. Without Rollins, I wouldn’t have had these opportunities, which have allowed me to grow as a public health professional.