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Public Health Undergrads Set for Commencement 

May 14, 2009

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From left, UAlbany graduating seniors Cali Zimmerman, Benjamin Lockspeiser, and Rachel Barkley.

From left, Cali Zimmerman, Benjamin Lockspeiser, and Rachel Barkley (seated), the first three UAlbany students to earn an undergraduate degree in public health. (Photo Mark Schmidt) 

Class of 2009 members Benjamin Lockspeiser, Cali Zimmerman, and Rachel Barkley, are the first University at Albany students to earn undergraduate degrees in public health.

The new Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree, instituted in 2007, prepares future public health leaders concerned with improving global public health and eliminating health disparities, and readies students for advanced studies and careers in related areas such as medicine, nursing, and law.

Whether public health officials are grappling with Swine Flu, HIV/AIDS or an obesity epidemic, health crises know no borders, and the need for a trained and motivated workforce has never been more paramount.

"I was drawn to public health because it was a new program and seemed to have everything I enjoyed public service with a science background," said Lockspeiser, of Valley Stream, N.Y.

"The Public Health major started in 2007 with a small handful of students," said School of Public Health Dean Philip C. Nasca. "The School is looking forward to expanding the program over the next few years to 20 majors per class year. The need for graduates who understand public health has never been greater. It's a very exciting time for the field."

The major has grown to include 56 minors, 12 majors, and 28 intended majors, said Undergraduate and Certificate Program Coordinator Lue V. Ellis.

Zimmerman, of Spencerport, N.Y., had already finished a major in Communication and was searching for classes when she added Public Health. Barkley, of Phoenix, N.Y., was a transfer student who switched to Public Health her junior year "because it would provide me with more opportunities."

The opportunities at UAlbany extend beyond the classroom. Lockspeiser joined the McKownville Fire Department, which became his home away from home and strengthened his leadership and interpersonal skills. "It is beyond any other feeling to help the helpless in their greatest time of need," he said.

Barkley joined up with the Court Appointed Special Advocates program as an intern through UAlbany's Community and Public Service Program (CPSP). "Our main goal at CASA is to find every child a safe, loving, permanent home," said Barkley, who is on a mission to start a CASA program in her home county of Oswego.

CASA flew her to Denver, Colo., to attend a national conference. "I had never been on an airplane before this excursion, so you can imagine my excitement," said Barkley, adding she hopes to work for CASA after graduation as well.

Lockspeiser's post-Commencement plans include working for the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) on the State Campus, and taking classes on Fridays and Saturdays at the Metropolitan College of New York in lower Manhattan. His goal is a master's degree in public administration in disaster and emergency management.

"I plan on working in the emergency management field after graduation and I will continue to volunteer anywhere I go," said Lockspeiser. "The last four years have been an experience I will never forget," said Lockspeiser. "I have grown more than I ever thought I could have in college."

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Best-selling author and alumnus Gregory Maguire, '76
UAlbany Alumni

"What I found at UAlbany was the capacity for teachers to think a little bit beyond what the catalog said and to extend themselves in such a way as to make an education tailored for an individual."

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