Alison (Roeder) Mailander
Year of Graduation: 2009
Major(s): European Studies (INDV) Minor(s): Art
Current Position: Health Promotion Programmer, Graduate School: University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Community Health Sciences
Please give a brief description of your current position/location and what it entails?
I work in the CSBSJU Health Promotion Department where we explore ways to promote a campus environment that supports and encourages healthy behavior. We assess the health and wellness of the student body through various metrics. Then we develop and implement health promotion campaigns and activities based on those needs, in conjunction with the Health Advocates and Health Initiative, two of the CSBSJU health promotion peer groups I supervise.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
I knew I wanted to go to graduate school for public health upon graduating from CSBSJU. However, I first wanted to take some time off school, and the majority of the public health programs recommend experience in the field before applying. During the year after graduation, and before starting the MPH program, I volunteered at an adult day center and taught health related material at the local Boys and Girls Club in Corvallis Oregon. I also took a few public health pre-requisites at Oregon State University. After my time there, I volunteered on a kibbutz in Israel for 5 months.
Shortly after starting the Community Health Sciences program at UIC, I found a job working at the HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research. I studied part time while working on childhood obesity studies at the Institute. I was involved with the design and implementation of several research studies, which helped me grasp the more abstract and theoretical components of my coursework. I strongly recommend working, ideally in a related field, while attending school. I was at HealthPartners for three years and finished my master's degree right before starting in Health Promotion at CSBSJU.
What skills are important in your field?
The ability to see the big picture is key to any public health career. Prevention is one of the main tenets of public health, which means you must identify the root of the problem. That is one of the reasons why public health is such a dynamic field. Getting to the root of the problem might be at the behavioral level and/or the policy level, both of which are very complex. People often think of public health work in terms of dealing with environmental toxins or vaccines, which is sometimes true. However, in the US, the major public health issues now are lifestyle and behavior related. A lot of public health work in the US relates to encouraging people to lead healthier lives, most commonly addressed through diet, exercise, stress management, lifestyle balance, etc.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
No one can reach the fullest potential in any realm of their life unless they feel healthy. Most of my energy throughout the day is expended on trying to improve the wellbeing of students so that they can focus on the other important things in life. That is definitely a satisfying part of my job.
Most areas of public health require many different skills. Convincing people to change their behavior is not easy, and requires creativity and critical thinking. Also, human behavior is difficult to measure and it is often hard to assess rates of success.
Interested in connecting with alums to tap into their expertise and learn about career opportunities?
Participate in the “Take a Bennie/Johnnie to Lunch” program. To learn more, check out: