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My Academic Journey to Public Health

When deciding a major, fourth time’s a charm right? Throughout my academic career, my “majors” have been: exercise science, athletic training, and dietetics. These career path changes occurred11060258_685007168274647_7533815517002696255_n during my freshman and sophomore year when I was easily persuaded. Now as a junior, I have declared a major in Community Health with minors in nutrition and environmental management. I feel secure in my choice but yet people inevitably ask, “What do you plan to do with that?” I realize this is a common question but I get an odd feeling that Community Health majors are doubted more than others. So with this post, I would like to chronicle my rationale of my three majors before my final choice of Community Health.

Senior Year of HS – Fall Semester Freshmen Year

Exercise Science: The idea of this major was constructed in my senior year of high school when you basically have to convince people you’re going to be successful. In society, we have this ingrained belief that all medical professionals are superior… so why would I want to be inferior? This led to my career aspiration of being a physical therapist. As I started the semester, the classes 12were fine but I was never passionate about it. The turning point was when I decided to shadow a physical therapist at IU Health. I realized the inpatient hospital setting was not my ideal work setting. Although there are outpatient settings, I could not see myself being trapped in a hospital working with the primarily older population.


2 weeks of Spring Semester Freshman Year

Athletic Training: I blame Introduction to Exercise Science class for this short-lived decision. One day in class, an athletic trainer was our guest speaker. It seriously took that one lecture to persuade me to change my major. Of course I wanted to test the waters of this field so I contacted the local trainer at my old high school. That experience shed light on that fact that I have no desire to work with high school athletes. A friend also told me, “You know they don’t get paid well enough for all they have to do?” This question flooded my thoughts. This fact was true. My local trainer had an incredibly demanding work schedule due to her work day at the school in addition to attending all the sporting events. I don’t like sports enough to be willing to do that as a career. That realization is all it took.


Rest of Freshman Year – Couple Weeks of Spring Semester Sophomore Year

Dietetics: I was fairly certain I was going to become a dietician whenever I was a junior in highschool, so I resorted back to this initial goal. I knew I wanted to influence an individual’s health and nutrition always intrigued me. The real game changer was CHEM-C 117, aka the weed-out course. This class made me question myself, my knowledge, and my capability of becoming a dietician. I knew I would struggle in future chemistry-related classes so why set myself up for failure? Next.13


Rest of Sophomore- Present

Community Health: My advisor suggested this career path following my chemistry meltdown. I was skeptical because like most, I was unfamiliar with what public health entailed. I truly got a taste of PH the fall semester of my junior year. In my classes, we discussed a range of topics: infant mortality, health care, FGM, cholera, schizophrenia, ebola, and asbestos. This, to me, is what matters. What other field will educate you on such a broad range of issues? Each of these topics impacted my thinking in some way. I even decided to add a minor in environmental management because I was so moved by the environmental unit in Intro to Public 14Health (SPH-B 150). I value the holistic perspective I have gained through this major. Most importantly, I value the awareness that I continue to gain from learning about current issues affecting our world. One of my professors asked a striking question, “Why would you want to be public servant?” Many reasonings flooded my mind as I started to justify why I was even in community health. His answer was this: “1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 2 men will develop cancer in their lifetime. You are working to change that ratio and that is a powerful thing.” I always said my goal in life was to make a positive impact on a person’s life. Through public health, I can achieve this goal by making impacts on an entire population of people.


With the three majors prior to Community Health, I would ask my friends, “Can you see me as a(n) [physical therapist, athletic trainer, or dietician]?” I15 always needed that justification in life; however, I didn’t need that justification with public health. I know there is a career out there for me. So when people do ask that annoying question of what I will do in the future, I respond with, “That’s a good question… because I still don’t know.” The great aspect of public health is that because it encompasses many different fields, the possible career choices are endless. I am thankful for this crazy journey of indecisiveness because I realized where my passion lies.Through this self-realization, I leave you with the advice: take advantage of shadowing the careers you are interested in. It could lead you to the right conclusion.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetShannen Keene is a junior from Ellettsville, IN pursuing a degree in Community Health. Bloomington has taught her the value of diversity, culture, and good food. After graduation, she hopes to serve for AmeriCorps and work for a non-profit. Until then, her days will be filled with eating ice cream and watching Scandal.


Categories: Exercise Science

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IUSPH Career Services

Job opportunities for Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington majors are diverse and expanding as the emphasis on living a healthy lifestyle grows around the world. Career Services experts in each of our academic departments will provide one-on-one counseling and career building opportunities throughout your academic career, from choosing the right major to developing a strategy to find a job. They can assist you with:

•career counseling
•job placement
•volunteer opportunities
•resume and cover letter preparation
•interview skills
•graduate school preparation

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