Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Karissa Page
UR Major: Biology
Other UR Majors/Minors: Psychology (major)
Additional Education: Master of Public Health from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
Current City, State of Residence: Baton Rouge, LA
Job Title: Project Coordinator
Employer: Acadiana C.A.R.E.S.
How did you choose your major(s)?
I was initially pre-med. Most everyone I knew had decided their major early on in their freshmen year, maybe even before they came to campus, but I was undeclared for as long as possible. I first declared to be a psychology major, but then realized that I only needed a few more classes to also have a major in biology.
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
I was involved with the UR’s College Republicans. Leading a student group, planning activities and meetings for the group, and tactfully handling issues and controversies are skills I practiced with the College Republicans and use consistently in my work now.
What are some specific skills students should develop during an internship?
Students should hone their writing skills and have exposure to writing different types of work such as grant applications, progress reports, business letters, memorandums, and information for the public. Students should strive to be exposed to as much of the organization they intern with as possible. Lastly, make connections. You never know where you will cross paths with someone again.
What is your opinion regarding graduate school vs. working right after graduation?
There is no proper order to follow. Some people (employers, internship programs) embrace going straight from undergrad to graduate school, others criticize it. I think it was easier to go straight to graduate school and continue with the life of a student – varying schedules, late nights, writing research papers. For some, it’s very hard to return to that lifestyle once you’ve become accustomed to set working hours, a paycheck, having free time at night and on the weekends. I went to graduate school directly from undergrad. That seemed to be the “expected” route for UR students, and de rigueur for schools in the Northeast. In other parts of the country, the opposite is true.
What early career advice can you give to current UR students studying biology?
Look for jobs that will bolster your skill set and professional tool box. Continue to learn and grow, and push yourself out of your comfort zone. An employer should want to see you mature professionally, even if that means you outgrow your position or their company, and move onto another job.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?
I coordinate the activities of a multiyear grant from the Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to improve HIV testing and linkage to care for prisoners in the Baton Rouge area. My master of public health is focused on program and policy development. I like creating new healthcare programs from scratch and bringing them to fruition. In five years, I’d like to be managing an organization that provides access to care and quality of life improvement programs for all ages in suburban/rural communities.