News & Events

In the Field

  • Melissa Hawkins wrote an article for The Conversation titled "Yes, we should be keeping the healthier hand-washing habits we developed at the start of the pandemic." (October)

  • The AU team was awarded the Interprofessional Prize at the DC Annual Case Challenge National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) (October)

  • Stacey Snelling is part of the team of researchers recently awarded a five-year, $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) titled "Multiscale Resilient, Equitable, and Circular Innovations with Partnership and Education Synergies (RECIPES) for Sustainable Food Systems.” (September)

  • Jolynn Gardner and Trina Ulrich presented Syllabus Reconstruction: Reflections on Applying a Social Justice Framework to Syllabus Review at the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health Undergraduate Conference. (September)

  • Melissa Hawkins contributed expertise to a Washington Post article on concert-going in 2021. (September)

    Melissa Hawkins was consulted in an NBC4 Washington article titled “COVID-19 Data in DC, Maryland, Virginia: 4 Things to Watch as Fall Begins.” (September)

  • Jolynn Gardner was part of the Conference Planning Committee for the Undergraduate Conference for Education in Public Health, ASPPH. (September)

  • Professor Ethan Mereish was interviewed for WTOP about his research on the impact of discrimination on LGBTQ teens (August).

  • Professor Melissa Hawkins spoke to NBC Washington about COVID, kids, and schools (August).

  • The Healthy Schoolhouse 2.0 team, including Lauren Kohls, Dr. Melissa Hawkins, Sarah Little, Robin McClave, Dr. Sarah Irvine Belson and Dr. Stacey Snelling, presented at the virtual poster session of the American School Health Association’s (ASHA) annual conference held July 19-21. The poster titled “Empowering Teachers to Support Healthy Students and Healthy Learners: Healthy Schoolhouse 2.0” was selected as the 2021 recipient of the ASHA Student Poster Award.

  • Gaby Seltzer, DC Central Kitchen, and Robin McClave, Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities, presented virtually at the Just Food Conference hosted by the Culinary Institute of America & New York University. The panel focused on Systemic Racism and Place and shared findings from DCCK’s SNAP matching incentive program in corner stores on produce purchases in underserved areas of DC (June).

  • Jolynn Gardner served as an Advisory Board Member for the Teach Global Health 2021 Summer Institute for Curriculum and Course Design (June).

  • Alison Chrisler was appointed the Executive Editor of The Journal of Child Life (June).

  • Cristian M. Gomez was awarded a grant by the AU Honors Program and Office of Undergraduate Education to participate in the 2021 AU Summer Scholars & Artists Program.
  • Sophie Hathaway was awarded a grant for the Robyn Rafferty Mathias Undergraduate Summer Fellowship.
  • Ellie Kight won the Stafford Cassell Award for her outstanding undergraduate achievements.
  • Dr. Snelling co-wrote an article in The Conversation about how expanded access to SNAP can help reduce food insecurity faced by college students and support educational achievement. (April)
  • Jolynn Gardner served as a moderator for the John Dingell Health Disparities Panel at the National Cancer Prevention Workshop. (February)

  • Alison Chrisler was appointed a CTRL SoTL Faculty Fellow.

    Martinique Free was granted the Humanities Truck Fellowship Award for the Black Women’s Movement to Reclaim Our Health Project.

  • Congratulations to Dr. Anastasia M. Snelling, recipient of the 2021 University Faculty Award for Outstanding Contribution to Fostering Collaborative Scholarship! Dr. Snelling was also recognized for the milestone anniversary of 25 years of service.

  • Melissa Hawkins was granted a Humanities Truck Fellowship Award for the Corner Store Communities in COVID-19 (CCC) project.

    Melissa Hawkins received a Luce Foundation Grant for food security in DC during covid-19.

  • Professor Anastasia Snelling received a grant for $66,000 from DC Central Kitchen for “Evaluation Services for the Healthy School Food Program's Nutrition Education and Engagement Activities.”

  • MS in Health Promotion Alumni, Meena Nutbeam, published her thesis titled, "Negative Attitudes and Beliefs Toward the #MeToo Movement on Twitter" in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

  • 1st year Public Health Scholar, Rebeka Rafi, was awarded an MLK Eagle Endowment Grant for her project to support food access among those experiencing homelessness in the DMV area.

Alum Spotlight

AshaLetia Henderson

AshaLetia “Asha” Henderson is a former military service member with a 6-year clinical background. She, and has an interest in infectious disease research, epidemiology, immunology, and health education. She is currently a Public Health Associate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Public Health Associate Program (PHAP), assigned to work with the State Medical Countermeasure Coordinator (MCM) at the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee, FL. The Public Health Associate Program is a “competitive, two-year, paid training program with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” The focus of her assignment is to work with the MCM on COVID-19 mass vaccination vaccine allocation.

During her undergraduate education, Asha’s passion for public health was solidified while working as a health promotion intern for American University’s Health Promotion and Advocacy Center. While performing in this role, she developed a fundamental understanding of how to create a successful health promotion program by designing her own pilot program, centered around disease prevention through proper hand-washing techniques.

Through this Q&A, Asha provides insight as to how her past work experience and education serve as pillars to her success as a PHAP, and offers advice to current public health students looking to enter the workforce.

What made you interested in becoming a Public Health Associate?

Asha was introduced to the PHAP by Dr. Jolynn Gardner, who is the Director of the Health Studies Public Health Program at American University. When asked about her experience applying to the program, she stated, “I was initially hesitant to apply after seeing the low acceptance rate, but told myself ‘the worst that can happen is they say no…the best is they say yes.’ With that, I went for it, and now I am here in Tallahassee! My interest in public health and the PHAP, stem from a culmination of my experience within the US public healthcare system, and health outcomes as a result of these interactions. What I appreciate most about the Public Health Associate Program, is it provides opportunities for me to apply the knowledge I gained as a student in AU’s public health program, to real community health issues. I feel being a Public Health Associate is broadening my understanding of applied public health systems, while also increasing my awareness of health inequities existing in diverse communities.”

How has your AU Public Health degree prepared you for what you are doing now?

“After I graduated, I realized what I learned in class is truly applicable to ‘real world’ public health issues. I know that sounds strange to say, but when I was a student, I often found myself thinking ‘Do we really need to know this?’ Class after class of lecture slides, presentations, group work, and exams – I felt the information was repetitive. However, I now know there was a reason for this. For instance, AU’s public health program encourages students to familiarize themselves with different public health models of behavior change, with the intent of emboldening students to create or manage health promotion programs. It also allows students to become involved in developing ways to identify and find solutions to emerging health crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, through partnerships with key stakeholders. I feel my public health degree prepared me as a Public Health Associate, and helped build my confidence to tackle assigned projects.”

What advice do you have for current Public Health students who are preparing for graduation and looking to enter the workforce?

“My biggest advice for public health students, is to never pursue a dream solely for money, because regardless, it will never be enough. Being a student in Washington, D.C., feels like a never-ending battle of scratching your way to the top of somewhere. When I was in undergrad, we were encouraged, and oftentimes required to complete an internship to graduate. There was this unspoken demand to find a “competitive” internship to secure a “competitive” job after graduating, which I feel weighed heavily on students’ mental health.

When I was attending AU, it was very common to see students running across campus to catch the shuttle bus, hoping it showed up on time, riding through traffic to get to the metro, hoping the train also showed up on time, just to make it across the city to an internship or job that did not pay or paid very little. It was disheartening seeing students fall asleep in class or down cup after cup of coffee, just to make it through the day. This was especially so among pre-med students like me, who frequently stayed up all night studying for a second or third exam that week. Of course, some of this can be attributed to the expected pressure of being in college, but it occasionally felt like overkill.

The field of public health is a vast and ever-changing entity that offers room for all those who want to contributee;, however, as a student of color (SOC), I found it somewhat difficult to find a space that encouraged my ideas and validated my suggestions. One significant reason why I continued pushing forward in my degree, was because I had amazing public health professors. The faculty in the health studies department at American University are phenomenal, but two of which, Dr. Jolynn Gardner and Dr. Katie Holton, I feel had the most impact on me. I am forever grateful for how they educated and took time to get to know me. If you are struggling to find your place in public health, or in life in general, my advice to you is to find some way to ground yourself. This can be as simple as taking the time you would probably spend surfing through an absurd amount of YouTube videos (I am guilty of this too), to take a moment to just breathe and be.

College is just the beginning of a journey to find yourself (whatever that means to you), learning to love yourself, acknowledging your accomplishments, and accepting compliments without feeling the need to justify your presence. Surround yourself with people who truly care about you, and take time to ask if you’re okay. Life can be hard enough as it is, especially right now with the ongoing, and at times, never ending social unrest in the United States, but can be even harder when you feel you are going through it alone. Allow others to help you with what you may need help with. Try your best not to get offended when someone corrects you, because they very well might see something that you may not.

As an alumna of color, I feel the need to specifically address, encourage, and uplift current SOC studying at American University, or any SOC who may be reading this article. As an undergrad student, I felt like I was constantly trying to rise to the surface of an ocean that was not designed for me, just to catch what little breath I could get and/or was allotted. Although we may come from different backgrounds, and our ideologies or ways we relate to others in our environment may vary, it is important you know that your being is valid, you deserve the respect of your peers, it is okay to be yourself, and to remember you are not alone. I feel most times, our survival routinely depends on our ability to “code switch.”

For readers who do not know what code switching is, it is “the action of changing our behaviors, speech, dress, and mannerisms to conform to a different cultural norm depending on context.” Asha continued saying, “There may come a time when you will not only have to stand up for yourself, but also for others. The fight for equity requires strength of many. Please know you are supported and have allies. Find them, partner up, have those difficult conversations, and try your best to continue to persevere through your struggles. You will need to find positive and healthy ways to block out the static of life. Beauty comes in all shades; you are one of them.”

Discover Health Promotion Management


Nov. 18, 2021: Faculty and alumni answered questions about the Health Promotion Management degree.

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AU Public Health Scholars “Go Inside the Outbreak”

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