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June 21, 2019

Student Spotlight: Sara Rotenberg

Sara Rotenberg (NHS'20) is an undergraduate studying global health and health policy and a student fellow with the Global Health Initiative.

Tell us about your experience working with a faculty mentor and conducting research as a Global Health Initiative Student fellow. What inspired the focus of your research?

I work for Professor John May in the Department of International Health on population policies in sub-Saharan Africa. We are exploring how decline in family size and population growth can generate profound economic benefits, including the demographic dividend—an
economic surplus triggered by the rapid decline in fertility when major changes occur in the age distribution of a population. We have been looking at possible rights-based population policies and policy levers that could accelerate this process in sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, we are focusing on how countries in the region can harness the synergies between different population policies and gathering political support for these policies in order to have greater
impact. In April, we presented our paper, “Fertility Transition in Sub-Saharan Africa: Towards an Integrated Approach to Population Policy”, at the Population Association of America Annual Conference in Austin, Texas.

My research was inspired after taking Professor May’s course on demography in the fall of 2017 and my passion for working on health and development policy. Professor May’s work combines my interest in public policy and development together with my outside interest of
investing in a unique way. Moreover, having lived in Singapore for two years before coming to Georgetown, I was fascinated by its development trajectory and excited by how this process could be replicated in sub-Saharan Africa, if policies focused broad policy interventions that often have multiple goals,  like women’s empowerment, legal reforms, and access to health care.

Tell us about some of the global health internships you have participated in on campus/in D.C.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to work at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which was founded in 2016 with the mission of coordinating and financing vaccines for infectious diseases, like Ebola and Nipah. I had the opportunity to work on the
Equitable Access policy, which ensures that people around the world will have access to these vaccines, regardless of their ability to pay.

This spring semester, I served as an intern at the Embassy of Canada’s Economic and Trade Policy section, where I focused on international development policy. I reported on a range of
international development focused events in Washington, including think tank events, Congressional hearings, World Bank proceedings, and issues relevant to Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy. In addition, I also had the honor of attending the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings as a delegate for Canada and interviewing Canada’s Minister of Finance, the Honorable Bill Morneau, when he spoke at the McDonough School of Business as part of the meetings.  

What activities are you involved with on campus?

This year, I have helped to start the Transfer Council, and currently serve as its programming chair to foster community among transfer students on-campus. I helped to plan over 20 events to build cohesion among and start new traditions, like the Transfer Formal for this community on-campus. Furthermore, I am also an active member of the Center for Social Justice’s Advisory Board for Student Organizations (CSJ ABSO), which oversees social justice programming on-campus and manages a budget of over $250,000. Part of my role as an advisor is assisting groups to develop their programming, leadership, and budgetary skills, and I thoroughly enjoy having the opportunity to work through problems with organization leadership and support their social justice initiatives. For example, this semester, I had the opportunity to work with the Native American Student Council on a petition for greater support and awareness for Native Americans on campus, which got over 600 signatures.

In addition to student activities, I am also heavily involved in research on-campus. This semester, I continued my work with Professor May, and have also joined the Georgetown India Initiative’s India Lab where I am working on assessment examining the policy and governance structures that have enabled Mumbai to build 150km of metro in one of the busiest cities in the world.  

What is your favorite part about being at Georgetown?

My favorite part about Georgetown are the opportunities on- and off-campus that allow me to immerse myself in global health. From the classes I have been able to take in the Department of International Health that have expert professors and guest lectures to the internships I have had while in D.C., I feel I have had an unparalleled experience because of Georgetown’s
resources and location.

Tell us about your educational and professional aspirations.

After graduation, I hope to pursue my passion for health and development policy through a graduate degree. The field of development has recently shifted to focusing on a gendered analysis of any development activities, and I want to focus my degree on how the development community can adopt this approach for integrating disability and universal design principles
into development projects. After graduate school, I want to continue this by working on health and development policy for government, multilateral, or international organizations.