So Much More than Classes: How to Find Work and Volunteer Opportunities

By Shankar Bhat, MPH’23 in Environmental Health

Like most students, I have a job (two in fact, living here isn’t cheap) and I have a strong drive to give back to my community. I found my first job through the Rollins Earn and Learn (REAL) program. (This is part of my scholarship package and functions as a sort of merit-based work study program wherein Rollins pays half the wages and your employer pays the other half, thus making you a more desirable employee. Approximately 50% of Rollins students receive REAL funding.) In our job portal that every student has access to I filtered for employers looking for a REAL student and was able to get a job very quickly. You can also filter by in-person/hybrid/remote, start date, decision deadline, job details and so much more.

I found, applied to, and interviewed for a job at the CDC’s National Authority for Containment of Poliovirus in September and started in November. (Because of the fiscal year restrictions and extensive background check and onboarding, CDC jobs typically start in October or November.) I found my second job by simply asking a professor! I was really interested in the research my professor was doing and went up to her after class and said as much. She and I met a few times and soon I was joining her sleep epidemiology lab. Here I am working with her and another professor on studying how air quality and sleep quality affect cardiovascular health. This job will go through the summer for my practicum experience (minimum 200 hours to graduate), and I plan on also using it for my thesis. In contrast, REAL positions are specific to the academic schedule and must end in May. I plan on applying for a new REAL position in August to broaden my skill set. Luckily, a federal background check won’t have to be redone for a while!

I have really enjoyed volunteering in Atlanta, specifically with the Atlanta Community Food Bank. I started there because a class I was taking – Social Determinants of Health Seminar – required us to do 10 hours of volunteer work. Soon I found myself far exceeding that requirement as I blocked out Thursday afternoons for volunteering in Stone Mountain, GA. I loved bringing food directly to people, getting to meet the families as well as the critical workers at the food bank. In addition to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, I’ve found volunteer opportunities through orientation, classes, and just on my own. During orientation we all volunteer and I had the opportunity to help clear and rebuild paths at the Clyde Shepard Nature Preserve with a group of other first-year Rollins students. It was a fun way to get to know other incoming students and I’m still friends with these people a semester and a half later. They hosted our Super Bowl watch party! It was a great way to cap off our week of orientation and to begin the semester.

Through classes I’ve learned about the Atlanta Science Fair and have volunteered with the HERCULES Exposome Research Center to table events for adults and children to come and learn about how the environment is affecting our health. This has been a great way to meet community research partners as well as work more closely with a professor I hope to work with in the future.

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