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ASU Online global health graduate aims to work with HIV/AIDS, human trafficking survivors

Portrait of Lynette Smith-Clay

Lynette Smith-Clay

December 05, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.

Pursuing a degree, especially an advanced degree, can be difficult to fit into one’s life. Managing work and family, among other duties, can make it seem like an impossible task, but for Lynette Smith-Clay, she found that ASU Online and the Master of Science in global health program through the School of Human Evolution and Social Change offered just what she needed to be successful. 

This flexibility is ideal for me as a working professional,” Smith-Clay said. 

Smith-Clay is graduating this December with her master’s degree and hopes to use her new degree to go on to work with a nongovernmental organization that focuses on HIV/AIDS domestically or internationally.

Editor's note: Answers may have been edited lightly for length or clarity. 

Question: How has your experience been as an ASU Online student?

Answer: My experience as an online student has offered me the flexibility to learn and study at my own pace while also providing course materials 24/7. What is also nice is that I am provided with access to a digital library, research materials and support services, including tutoring and academic advising. This flexibility is ideal for me as a working professional.

There are also diverse course offerings that make it easy to find a program that aligns with my goals and interests. And, of course, the cost. As an online student, it offered a significant cost benefit. I saved money on commuting, housing and other associated costs, such as out-of-state fees.

Q: Why did you choose Arizona State University for the online Master of Science in global health?

A: ASU is a respected institution with a strong academic reputation known for its commitment to innovation and research. The university has been recognized for its excellence in various fields, which can be a significant asset in a global health program. The MS in global health program offers and incorporates an interdisciplinary approach, which is also a valuable asset for understanding the complexity of the nature of global health issues. It has allowed me to explore global health challenges from multiple perspectives and provided me with many research opportunities in various areas of global health.

Whether I am interested in infectious diseases, health policy, environmental health or any other global health topic, the global health program offers opportunities that align with my interests. In addition, ASU has a commitment to sustainable and equitable solutions that align with the values of many global health professionals who seek to address health disparities and promote sustainable solutions. Ultimately, ASU was the right fit for my academic and career aspirations.

Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

A: My "aha" moment happened several years ago when I began volunteering with an HIV/AIDS nonprofit and eventually progressed to the administrator of the regional HIV/AIDS program. The experience provided real-world exposure and led to my desire to study it further.

Before that, I was not sure which path my career would take. ... I knew I wanted to take my journey further, and what better way for me than to study global health? This area of study signified a strong connection between my interests, passion and goals.

I am currently completing an exciting internship with Project Moses North, an independent ministry and valued partner of Project Moses at SMAA in combating the heinous crimes of human trafficking and exploitation. Our multifaceted approach focuses on raising awareness through education, prevention and providing unwavering support to survivors. What sets us apart is our dedication to infusing hope into the darkest corners by bringing the transformative light and love of Jesus Christ.

At the heart of this endeavor, I am working on a policy brief assessing the impact of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 on safeguarding victims and prosecuting traffickers in the state of Texas and will include thoughtful recommendations for action. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU in the classroom or otherwise that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: One of the surprising and perspective-changing experiences was my exposure to diverse perspectives and cultures. Going into the program, I had no idea I would have the opportunity to encounter and collaborate with peers from so many regions of the globe. The different backgrounds, cultures, experiences and worldviews challenged my preconceived notions, broadened my horizons, and profoundly fostered a deeper appreciation for diversity and inclusivity.

Q: Which professor/course taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I have learned many valuable lessons from my professors and many of my courses on this journey. However, if I had to choose one, it would have to be Assistant Research Scientist Roseanne Schuster, which is why I selected her as my faculty committee member for my internship. She is probably unaware of this, but my first course at ASU was Survey Topics in Global Nutrition, taught by Schuster. She emphasized critical thinking. Returning to school after several years, I thought I had been applying critical thinking to all my professional projects. However, gaining a deeper understanding of what it means to dig deep, to analyze, evaluate and synthesize information from various sources and perspectives to apply and problem-solve is attributed to that first class. Being reintroduced to thinking critically from an academic point of view will enhance my ability to use that skill when approaching projects and research as I continue to move forward on my professional path.

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