Growing up in East Orange — a predominantly African American suburb of Newark, New Jersey — Enrique Neblett credits his strong work ethic and core education values to his mother, who was an educator. However, it wasn’t until he attended a predominantly white institution in seventh grade that he started realizing what would become his research passion and life’s work. As he recalls, “I was one of the few black students there. I didn’t know it at the time, but issues of race and class were very different from what I was accustomed to in my home environment.”
A lifelong San Francisco Bay Area resident, Lauren pursued a pre-dental major during her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Though she didn’t realize it at the time, she was gaining a grounding in subjects that would be pivotal to her work later on, including classes in biology, organic chemistry, and nutrition.
Growing up in a household with family members who were often sick, Margo desired from an early age to influence the health of the people she loved. These influences drew her to nursing. “I wanted to apply my knowledge and help communities as a whole,” Margo says.After practicing as a nurse for some time, Margo notes that she saw “clear and marked differences in how individuals in minority communities and historically disadvantaged communities received care and engaged with the health care system.”
For someone like Denese Neu, who cares as much about the details as she does the big picture — and is able to see the connection between them — the multidisciplinary field of urban studies is a perfect fit. She has learned through more than 25 years of applied research and experience that urban studies, which is where she sees health and community intersect, can help tackle many of the complexities of cities, including access to services for vulnerable populations. Denese’s work has opened doors and allowed people to understand why urban planners need to care about health, and why medical professionals need to care about physical and social constructs of place.
Most professors choose to take graduate students with a 3.9 grade point average. Shawn Bediako, however, claims his “magic number” is 2.8. He sees something of himself in students on the verge between a C and B — the students who are scrappy and don’t want to give up. Even more specific, Shawn seeks students with explicit interests in taking their research back to their communities, whether it’s Southeast Asia or Appalachian Kentucky.