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May 2018: Future epidemiologist strives to work overseas

Public health major Laura Pappas’ sites are set on becoming an epidemiologist in another country, researching disease. But first, she plans to attend graduate school at Tulane University this fall to get her master’s degree in public health and tropical medicine.

“There’s a lot you can do with a public health degree,” Pappas said. “As I started taking classes at Georgia College, I narrowed them down more toward epidemiology. I like the idea of being able to research more, and the fieldwork that comes with it is intriguing to me.”

Pappas experienced what the public health field is like during her internship at the Putnam County Health Department where she has done inspections, as well as attended some district meetings.

“This internship has given me a lot of background knowledge, responsibilities and opportunities,” she said. “It’s made me more confident in my abilities to assist my coworkers, and they’ve been great teachers.

Laura Pappas takes water samples

Some of Pappas’ duties included conducting food service and septic inspections where she would communicate with restaurant owners to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

“Even in your own home, you don’t do things at a level that they do,” she said. “Restaurant owners are held to a higher standard. It’s just been very interesting.”

Pappas also acquired leadership skills while at Georgia College. She was involved in Emerging Leaders, the leadership certificate program, the Honor’s program and two national honor societies.

“The Emerging Leaders program started me off fresh,” said Pappas. “I got to listen to successful business men and women share their experiences—things that they thought will help students later in life. The leadership certificate program allowed me to work more with team building and discovering who I am as a leader.”

She calls the university a perfect fit for her and credits her relationships to helping her find success.

“I really loved my college experience,” said Pappas. “The small class sizes helped professors to get to know the students personally, so they can figure out what they’re doing right now and what their goals are. And they are willing to help with whatever you need to be successful.”

The faculty member who made the biggest impression on her was Assistant Professor Heidi Fowler.

“I really enjoyed having Heidi Fowler for several classes,” said Pappas. “She’s very optimistic and encouraging. She helped me when I was applying to other places by writing letters of recommendation. Ms. Fowler also gave me advice for the proposal and the Fulbright Scholarship application. She let me bounce ideas off of her. Ms. Fowler is just always willing to work with you and wants to see you succeed.”

She benefited from the liberal arts experience, plus learned the value of giving back through working in the Harrisburg community and volunteering in the veteran’s home.

“All of my classes stressed approaching things from a worldly view,” said Pappas. “Our professors wanted us to think beyond the classroom.”

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