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Global health student explores myriad of opportunities at ASU

Elizabeth Hunt
October 02, 2013

Editor's Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about student excellence at the university. To read more about some of ASU's outstanding students, click here.

When Elizabeth Hunt was a little girl, she wrote down all of the things that she would do once she grew up. Among the items that she has already accomplished are traveling and attending a top university. (The private jet hasn’t panned out yet.)

With a drive to succeed through hard work and by experiencing as many different aspects of her major as possible, Hunt has traveled to Costa Rica and served on internships where she’s made a real difference in people’s lives. Plans are also in the works to earn her master’s degree in public health.  

“I want to work with tribal communities, at the community or national level, through the health care system,” Hunt said. “I want to be a part of the continued advocacy of health care for tribal communities and possibly work within the Indian Health Services at the national level.”

Among Hunt’s many adventures was an internship with the United States Department of Agriculture through the Washington Internships for Native Students in Washington, D.C., while she was attending community college. Taking classes on federal Indian policy and working with the food safety inspection service division of the USDA proved to be a great experience.

“It was a tremendous growing experience where I became more independent, more professional and focused on what I want to do in life,” she said. “It was fun, too.”

After learning about ASU during the internship, visiting the Tempe campus and exploring majors offered through the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Hunt decided that ASU was the school for her.

“The student advisors are very helpful,” she said.

After earning her associate's degree in her hometown of Ventura, Calif., tackling the challenging academic rigor at ASU was stressful at first.

“The workload was a big adjustment for me. There are so many readings and writings here, and a demanding schedule,” she said. “I learned about the single study rooms provided by the libraries and still use them to do my work.”

Yet, she soon discovered that opportunities are plentiful at ASU.

During her first semester, she joined the Pre-Health Association of Native American Leaders, where she made friends and practiced her chosen field through health outreach. Hunt is a member of the Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri and is of Mexican descent.  

Costa Rica was Hunt’s destination during the summer of 2012 when she participated in a community health research internship and stayed with a family in the Ngobe Territory. Research consisted of looking at health behaviors in residents’ homes and their relationship to intestinal parasites that many people in the area carry.

“It was very intense,” she said. “Living without electricity and having to boil my water in a rice cooker were complete shocks to my system. It was a very good wake-up call not to take things for granted.”

An internship this past summer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Undergraduate Public Health Scholars program through the Maternal and Child Health Careers/Research Initiatives for Student Enhancement Program by the Kennedy Krieger Institute provided her with the opportunity to work with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) in Los Angeles, where she practiced community outreach, aided in hosting information tables at local health fairs and was responsible for scheduling and attending Congressional meetings with the ADA.

“It was really empowering. Working with underrepresented communities is definitely a passion of mine,” she said.

Especially poignant for Hunt was learning more about diabetes, since a family member has the disease.

“My dad has diabetes. It was nice to learn more about educational outreach and this complex disease,” she said.

Giving back to her father is a primary driver in her quest to help others through health outreach. She and her sister will be the first in their family to earn their bachelor’s degrees.

“Others who are getting their college education, or are considering doing so, can do it. It just takes a lot of questions to figure out where to go, and hard work,” she said. “Keep pushing, because it’s going to be difficult. Do an internship if you can. My first internship with the USDA changed my life. It was just great.”

What’s next on her “to do” list? Perhaps a doctoral degree. And someday, that private jet.