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Meet the Major: Political Science and Public Health

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Picture of Savannah Gillis with the caption "Meet the Major: Political Science and Public Health"

To Savannah Gillis, University of Massachusetts Amherst was the best of both worlds. The spacious campus paired with its quaint surrounding area made UMass Amherst feel like “its own city.” The vibrancy of our diverse student body carved a place for her long list of interests to be experimented with, which would allow for her time at UMass to be “anything she wanted it to be.” And, of course, having number one campus dining didn’t hurt.

Gillis is now a second year political science major with a secondary major in public health. Given her lifelong interest in history, politics, and government affairs, she always knew she would want to study something related to the topic. It wasn’t until her first year at UMass, when she enrolled in The Science of Health Inequality, that she became interested in public health as well. She felt as though adding public health as a secondary major would make her degree more “marketable” and “specialized.” While the two disciplines seem like they’d be polar opposites, they coincide in more ways than one. “I see these as a fitting combination; with them I can apply relevant political theories and processes towards addressing public health issues such as infectious disease, poor air and water quality, obesity and chronic illness, etc.,” she said.

In her two years at UMass, Gillis’ classes have given her the opportunity to highlight what topics she is interested in among both fields of study, as the areas of interest for each are vast. Luckily, at a school with so many disciplines, UMass has allowed Gillis to explore several topics of interest pertaining to both her majors. She also enjoys the various class sizes at UMass, as some are large lecture-style, and others more intimate discussion-based.

She applauds her professors for being experts in their field, who are commonly cited in news publications or used as government consultants. In spite of their busy schedules, they always invest themselves into teaching, which Gillis admires. She has been given the opportunity to work closely with a professor in the political science department, completing research for two years now. This experience, she said, “goes to show how open professors are to undergraduate students looking to gain experience and insight.” 

In her future career, Gillis knows she can utilize her degree in either the public or private sector, and at a local, national, or international level. She looks forward to the endless opportunities her career will bring, as competition for public health experts runs high in any industry. She hopes to one day work in the public sector, possibly as a health-policy specialist for an elected official, or for a federal agency such as the The Center for Disease Control (CDC) or  National Institutes of Health (NIH). She plans on attending graduate school post undergrad.

Outside of class, Gillis stays busy as a campus tour guide and barista at Peoples Organic, a coffee shop located on campus. She likes to spend her spare time with friends, exercising at the UMass Recreation Center, eating at Late Night in the dining halls, or walking around Amherst Center.

Topic: 

Academics

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Picture of McGuirk Stadium with the caption: “My First Visit to UMass"

The first time I ever set foot on to the University of Massachusetts campus was in the spring of my junior year of high school. Amidst an array of college tours, SAT practice tests, and AP exam studying, I can’t honestly say I took the time to appreciate the little beauties UMass Amherst had to offer-- rather, I worried that my application would not be up to par. Questions ran through my head the entire time I was there, as they would any stressed out high school junior: “What if my extracurriculars aren’t good enough?” “Have I taken enough AP classes?” “What if I’m not accepted?”