Willa Serling ’20, an anthropology major with minors in global health and human biology and kinesiology, has been named an Erasmus Mundus scholar. The highly competitive scholarship provides for a two-year European public health dual master’s degree through the EuroPubHealth+ program.
Serling, of Seattle, Washington, will earn a master’s degree in public health at the University of Sheffield in England the first year, and master's in leadership in European public health at Maastricht University in The Netherlands the second year. She will take a condensed format course in France in the summers in between programs.
“The EuroPubHealth+ programme will be instrumental in preparing me to mitigate health disparities as a leader in the public health field,” says Serling. “Looking forward, I am eager to design international health interventions, specifically focusing on sociocultural influences of non-communicable diseases and community-based solutions. I desire to combat inequities as a leader in solving critical public-health issues around the world.”
In addition to being named an Erasmus Mundus scholar, Serling also was one of 11 Colorado College Fulbright semifinalists this year for a public health research project in Indonesia and a Global Health Corps semifinalist for a position with the Ministry of Health in Kigali, Rwanda.
Her interest and involvement in public health has been extensive. In addition to being active with Colorado College’s GlobeMed Club all four years as a student, including serving as an executive board member in 2017-19 and as co-president in 2019-20, Serling has wide-ranging experience.
She spent the Fall 2018 semester abroad with the School for International Training (SIT) in their International Honors Program where she studied public health in communities in Vietnam, South Africa, and Argentina. Throughout the semester, she conducted a research project that examined how social determinants and stigma affect access to prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
Prior to that, during the Summer of 2018, she worked as an intern for the Western Organization for People Living with HIV/AIDS, a locally founded and run grassroots organization that works to destigmatize HIV/AIDS in Mumias, Kenya, through various social support programs.
Serling also worked as a business development intern for HealthRight International in New York City last summer. HealthRight works to mitigate health disparities for vulnerable populations in the U.S., Ukraine, Kenya, and Uganda. As the business development intern, she conducted background research on future program development prospects about mental health in Ukraine, worked on Raiser’s Edge software, assisted with grant management, and planned a fundraiser to raise awareness about LGBTQI communities in Kenya.
Her experience at HealthRight was the foundation of her senior anthropology thesis, titled “A Medical Anthropological Examination of Cultural Relativism and Cross-Cultural Communication to Foster Change: International NGO’s Role in Global Health Development.” Serling was invited to present her thesis at Supranational Democracy Dialogue in Brindisi, Italy, in April, but the conference has been postponed until the Fall due to the Coronavirus.
Serling also was awarded a Venture Grant for the Spring 2020 semester for her proposal, “How Gentrification Affects Food Trends in New York City.” She had planned to pursue the project over spring break, but now plans to conduct the project over the summer, once it is safe to do so.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to study public health at the graduate level, especially through this incredible program which enables a multinational education and prioritizes a diverse cohort of students allowing us to learn from one another,” she says.