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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

University of South Florida: Putting Passion into Practice: Students Live and Learn Health Advocacy

USF College of Public Health (COPH) students—both graduate and undergraduate—have a new way to get involved with advocacy thanks to the Activist Lab, created by Dr. Karen Liller, a professor of health education and community and family health.  Dr. Liller learned of the Boston University Activist Lab a while back and then developed a unique approach for the USF COPH.

The overall mission of the lab is to serve as a hub of excellence in providing interdisciplinary advocacy, education, research and service opportunities for students to develop skills that will promote their success as effective public health leaders.

“The Activist Lab is not about carrying signs at rallies,” Dr. Liller noted. “It is an educational lab where students will learn how to do advocacy right. We will focus on two major public health projects a year [this year’s areas are firearm safety and human trafficking]. This will be a great opportunity for students to not only learn about advocacy, but to be a part of it.”

Since the fall semester, the Activist Lab has been busy.

“We had our first two advocacy journal clubs and we conducted our first mixer where students throughout the college had the opportunity to write on boards with butcher paper the public health missions they are passionate about and interested in advocating for,” commented Dr. Liller. “We are now analyzing those topics and creating themes for future projects.”

The Activist Lab also conducted its first “Public Health in a Minute” video. The videos give leaders in the community and academia a chance to highlight—in just 60 seconds—what they are advocating for in public health. COPH Dean Donna Petersen, who was featured in the first video, urged the community to get out and vote in order to move forward agendas that promote public health initiatives.

On November 2, the Activist Lab also held its first educational seminar, the focus of which was Tampa’s Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program. The session, led by GAL senior attorney Ms. Michelle Blume, provided an overview of the program, ways get involved and emphasized the need for advocating for at-risk children through the court system.

Much is in store for the Activist Lab in the coming months, including more seminars, a boot camp on advocacy, collaborations with several community groups focused on firearm violence and human trafficking, and more.

The lab has a new website and a graphic, designed by MPH student Mr. Matt Allman,  

“What I hope is that through the lab we create public health leaders who receive necessary hands-on training opportunities so they not only know about advocacy but are successful change agents,” Liller explained. “I believe that at no other time in our country’s history could this be more important.”