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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

South Florida: 35th Anniversary Spotlight – The Activist Lab

Advocacy is as important in public health as data analyses and needs’ assessments.

But students have traditionally lacked advocacy experience.

In 2018, Dr. Karen Liller, a University of South Florida College of Public Health (COPH) professor specializing in injury prevention and health education, decided to remedy that situation by starting the Activist Lab at the COPH.

The group, which is run with the help of two research assistants and a six-student advisory board made up of graduate and undergraduate students, provides interdisciplinary advocacy, education, research and service opportunities for students to develop the skills that will promote their success as effective public health advocates and leaders.

The Activist Lab, directed by Dr. Liller, is the second such lab in the country, with the first being at Boston University’s School of Public Health.

Dr. Liller says she had been wanting to start a program like the Activist Lab at the COPH for a while, to compliment the Doctoral Student Leadership Institute she began as dean of the USF Graduate School, now known as the Office of Graduate Studies.

“I strongly believed students needed much more preparation in leadership and advocacy skills before they graduated,” Dr. Liller commented.

In just one year of its existence, hundreds of students have taken part in the Activist Lab’s educational and service opportunities, which include activism boot camps, seminars, guest speakers, journal clubs, writing groups, research efforts and public health in a minute videos. These videos — only 60 seconds long — have featured faculty and community leaders discussing pertinent public health issues, everything from the importance of voting to refugee health.

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