For Andrew Walsh, receiving the Ina Jo Rosenberg and Shiri Eve Leah Gumbiner Fellowship makes possible the whole endeavor of earning dual master’s degrees in public affairs and public health.
Andrew Walsh has a project assistantship with doctor Patrick Remington of the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the 2012-13 school year. He is working on a project to improve the education of medical students in the field of public health. During the summer he worked on a health impact assessment of Wisconsin's transitional jobs program; the work is continuing into the fall semester. Walsh is fund-raising coordinator for the La Follette School Student Association.
Noah and Shelley Rosenberg established the fellowship in 2010 at the La Follette School to honor Noah’s younger sister, Ina Jo Rosenberg, and her daughter, Shiri Eve Leah Gumbiner. They both passed away too soon, Ina in 2002 and Shiri in 2005.
“Psychologically, receiving the fellowship is a huge morale booster for me,” says Walsh, who started his first semester at the La Follette School this fall. “When the program awarded me this fellowship, I had renewed confidence that pursuing public health and public affairs is not only something that I can do, but something that I ought to do.
“Practically, the fellowship enables me to focus on classes for these first semesters, which, having been out of full time school for a while, is going to be challenging,” Walsh adds. “It also opens up possibilities for professional development that I might otherwise have to pass up. All in all, I’m very grateful.”
After Walsh graduated from Bates College in Maine in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in biology, he pursued his interests in agriculture by working on an organic farm and serving with a commercial fishing crew in Alaska. Through the Peace Corps, he volunteered in Morocco in community development and environmental education.
There, Walsh collaborated with the local water and forestry department, associations, cooperatives and schools on community development projects that improved residents’ standard of living while maintaining the local environment. Projects included planning, raising funds for and building school bathrooms. He also helped to organize a service learning visit by American high school students, revised a financial database for a local cooperative and provided organizational and management guidance for a new women’s center.
Those experiences, especially his time abroad, contributed to Walsh’s decision to pursue degrees in public affairs and public health. “I think for many people, including myself, being able to live, work and travel in foreign countries really improves one’s ability to think critically about the issues facing the world and also about culture and systems in one’s native country,” Walsh says. “This process, in turn, made me think about how I could better participate in discussions about health and social issues, which then led me to think about public affairs programs.”
Walsh moved to Madison after his return from Morocco. He pursued his interest in community development and health by working as a research technician in the AIDS vaccine development lab and taking classes in anthropology, HIV/AIDS and international health.
He enjoys the university, Madison and Wisconsin. “I have found that the sense of community, attitudes and culture in the region really resonate with me, so staying for school made sense,” he says. “The philosophy behind the Wisconsin Idea was also a motivating factor; I am not aware of any other institution with such a rich history of public service. Given the mission of the La Follette School, the decision was truly quite easy. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t find this mix of community and academic excellence anywhere else.”
The dual-degree health program and the university’s resources give Walsh many opportunities to approach health policy from different perspectives. “Health — whether good or poor or the transition between the two — isn’t something that is ever going away,” Walsh says. “I feel that good health is quite fundamental to a well-functioning society, so I am looking forward to working in public health and health policy because it is something that I feel can always be made better.”
“I would like to think that we’re all interested in keeping everyone healthy; perhaps, the conversations don’t need to be as contentious as recent and historical discussions have been,” he adds.
Participating in those conversations is an important component of public service and community development, Walsh says, and the La Follette School’s program will help him think and act more effectively on the health and social issues that interest him. “For all the individualistic rhetoric, we are quite dependent upon one another — strangers, acquaintances and friends alike,” he says. “Public service is just an extension of this; it’s another way to engage and participate meaningfully in a wider social network. And really, it is just something that I enjoy doing.”
— posted October 19, 2011; updated October 10, 2012