Organization Spotlight: Rollins Environmental Health Action Coalition (REHAC)

By Marisa Wong, MPH’23 in Environmental Health

Alessandria and Marisa recruiting new REHAC members at the 2022 Student Engagement Fair.

Alessandria Schumacher is a second-year Environmental Health and Epidemiology student from the Gangarosa Department of Environmental Health (GDEH) at the Rollins School of Public Health (RSPH). Alessandria served as the Vice President of the Rollins Environmental Health Action Coalition (REHAC) during the 2021-2022 year and is excited to share her experience leading this student organization.

Aside from her role at REHAC, Alessandria is involved with the community, serves as a teaching assistant for several Rollins courses, and enjoys exploring Atlanta. In the future, she hopes to take her environmental health knowledge and apply it to a policy or advocacy setting, building on what she’s learning about chemical toxics, climate change, and air pollution to ultimately create change.

Alessandria was gracious enough to sit down and answer a few questions about REHAC to shine some light on student organizations for prospective students! If you want to see what else REHAC has been up to visit their Instagram page (@rollins_rehac).

Marisa: Can you explain what REHAC is, and what motivated you to become part of REHAC’s executive board?

Alessandria: REHAC is Rollins Environmental Health Action Coalition. It sounds like a fancy title, but simply this is a student organization that does environmental health awareness, education, community service, and social events for the Rollins community. I chose to join after my first semester, where I felt confident with my classes under my belt and wanted to get more involved with the Rollins community besides just going to class. That’s when I applied to be a member of the Executive Board (E-board) for REHAC.

Marisa: You described this a little bit already, but would you be able to expand a little bit more on what REHAC offers to the RSPH community?

Alessandria: REHAC events are whatever the Executive Board and the members want to make them. In the past year we’ve held a bunch of different events. We held a movie screening and discussion about environmental racism. We run the Rollins Student Garden, where we welcome anyone in the Rollins community to come work in the garden for an hour. After an hour’s work, you get to take home some produce! At the end of last semester, we had a Sips ‘N Succulents event, which was based on a paint and sip idea. Instead of painting, we were planting succulents, which was a great way to celebrate the end of the gardening year. We’ve done social events in collaboration with other organizations, where we had a picnic with Emory Global Health Organization (EGHO) and Society for Public Health and Medicine (SPHM). This last fall we hosted a lunch talk with a couple of folks from the Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI) to educate us about sustainability across Emory, as well as our particularly confusing compost, recycling, and trash bins here at Rollins.

Marisa: Do you have any events that you found to be the most rewarding or the most fun?

Alessandria: The movie night sticks out as a rewarding event because I took a leadership role in organizing it, and it was our first big event in collaboration with the Association for Black Public Health Students (ABPHS). We had a phenomenal turnout, where we provided dinner and screened a movie here in our largest auditorium. The movie screening was very emotionally intense and led to a great discussion of the themes, issues, and solutions of environmental racism. Everyone’s participation led to some great small and large group conversations. This event showed that we can put on a momentous event that is meaningful, educational, and very collaborative while also meeting new people!

In terms of events that were most fun, I loved our OSI talk this fall. It was our first event of the year, with lots of first years in attendance who all had great energy. Everyone was excited to be there, meet people, and learn about REHAC and Rollins.

Marisa: How do you balance your involvement in REHAC with your responsibilities and commitments?

Alessandria: That’s always a challenge. The E-board had meetings every other week that, for the most part, all of us attended every time. This was helpful in terms of keeping us all on track and keeping us moving forward. For me, these meetings were great to hold myself personally accountable in updating the team on my progress. Having a great group of fellow students on the E-board who understood when someone was sick, had a big assignment due, or had a conflict really helped balance everything else we had going. While it is important to prioritize REHAC’s work, we’re all students where being a student comes first. REHAC is a fantastic addition to the student experience.

Marisa: Why should other students get involved with REHAC?

Alessandria: Joining REHAC does not require a high level of commitment. It’s simply coming to our events, being on our listservs, or sharing thoughts or articles about the environment and environmental health. Students should get involved if they are at all interested in environmental health, especially if they’re not in the Environmental Health Department. This is a great way for students who are not taking the environmental health coursework to gain more exposure to this field. One of our board members is in the Behavioral, Social, & Health Education Sciences (BSHES) department, and she brought a different perspective while also was able to advertise events to BSHES students who might not normally prioritize environmental health. Students should join if they want to get more involved with the Rollins community or meet new students. Attending our events is a great way to get involved, to know what else is going on, and to make Rollins feel a little bit more like home.

Marisa: And my last question for you is what do you hope REHAC accomplishes in the next few years?

Alessandria: With every year having new leadership, I would hope that the next E-board can continue what we’ve started in emphasizing the sustainability of events. During the COVID-19 pandemic, self-served platters of food went away, and individually packaged box lunches were required that produced a lot of waste. We’ve worked closely with our advisor, as well as folks in the OSI, to improve this. I hope that as we transition to a different phase of COVID, we can get back to reducing waste, food waste, packaging waste, and bringing people together over food at Rollins.

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