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April 5, 2018

Seniors Participate in Focus Group to Shape the Future of the STIA Major

Student at global health event
Student at global health event

On February 28, 2018, graduating seniors in the Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) major participated in a focus group designed to reflect on their academic experience and generate ideas for future curricular development.

The 12 seniors reflected on why they originally chose a STIA major concentrated in global health and biotechnology, and discussed to what extent the program met their original expectations.

Through coursework in the lab sciences and technology, as well as senior capstone projects, the STIA curriculum encourages students to formulate research investigations and effectively distill key findings to various audiences.

Career in Public Health

During the focus group, sponsored by the Global Health Initiative (GHI), students expressed their appreciation for the interdisciplinary nature of the major, and the unique opportunity to merge interests in international affairs with interests in public health, epidemiology, and health sciences. Each student expressed different personal, academic, and career goals that the global health and biotechnology concentration helped to clarify, revealing the substantive intersections between global health and biotechnology.

“STIA proved the best major to combine my many interests, and to provide me with an interdisciplinary education that also incorporated some important quantitative and technical skills,” said Marina Smith, a GHI student fellow and graduating STIA major.

STIA faculty reiterated the view that the global health and biotechnology concentration prepared students for future careers as interdisciplinary problem solvers.

“What I like about the STIA approach is that it puts foundational knowledge in biology on equal footing to foundational knowledge in political economy,” explained Emily Mendenhall, assistant professor of global health in the Walsh School of Foreign Service. “I think the ability to connect biology with politics in a robust way produces thinkers that can tackle some of the most complicated problems in innovative ways.”

Designing the Future

During the discussion, students noted that upperclassmen in the program were untapped sources of guidance and advice and suggested the expansion of peer mentoring opportunities as an important area for improvement. The group also advocated for streamlining the required STIA curriculum, but acknowledged the significance of how the major links natural science courses to the mandated social science requirements.

“Fulfilling the hard science requirement gave me a foundational understanding of concepts related to my interest in global health and epidemiology,” said Smith. “Understanding the basic science behind disease transmission, immunology, or anatomy is necessary for advocating for effective policy change or health-related programs.”

The focus group proved invaluable in gathering student feedback and integrating the voices of graduating Hoyas into curricular development that will impact future generations of Georgetown students.

“We are thrilled Marina and her peers worked together to think through how to improve STIA and especially the global health concentration,” said Mendenhall. “The STIA faculty have discussed the feedback and are eager to incorporate it into existing conversations about shifting our core curriculum.”