Skip to Content

Arnold School of Public Health


HPEB and EXSC students named Graduate Civic Scholars by The Graduate School

May 27, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

The Graduate School has selected only 11 students from across the University to join the 2016-2017 cohort of their Graduate Civic Scholars Program, and Arnold School students have earned three of these highly competitive spots. Kaleea Lewis (Health Promotion, Education and Behavior (HPEB)), Katharine (Kate) Olscamp (Exercise Science (EXSC)), and Aditi Srivastav (HPEB) will join the innovative, professional development program, which will provide them with an enhanced understanding of the role of scholarship in community and public engagement, action-based research, and social justice.

I will use the knowledge I gain from this program to further my goals by creating sustainable and equitable health for marginalized populations.

-Kaleea Lewis, Ph.D. Student (HPEB)

Originally from Hopkins, S.C., just 30 minutes outside of Columbia, Lewis is working toward earning a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in HPEB. Although she initially envisioned a career in medicine, her plans shifted after job shadowing and discussions with her undergraduate advisor made her realize that she could make a bigger impact through public health. “Upon a whim and suggestion, I applied to the Arnold School and the rest is history,” says Lewis, who first earned a Master of Science in Public Health in HPEB from the Arnold School before beginning her doctoral program. “I’ve never regretted my decision.”

Her career goals are two-fold: teaching at an academic institution and working with a government agency or non-profit organization whose goals align with her research interests. Lewis examines the relationships between social determinants of health, including racism and social inequalities, and the mental health and well-being of African Americans. “In particular, I am interested in studying the mental health burden of institutional racism and social inequality for African Americans with a focus on educational context in the United States,” she says.

As a Graduate Civic Scholar, Lewis will continue to engage, advocate and serve her community while being equipped with the foundational tools needed to ensure that her research skills move beyond scholarly purposes to real-life applications. “Most importantly, I will use the knowledge I gain from this program to further my goals by creating sustainable and equitable health for marginalized populations,” says Lewis. By combining this program with other aspects of her doctoral experience, she will work toward building her capacity to conduct meaningful research and work with the community. “I truly believe that the younger generation will be the future of our society,” she says. “And I want a part in fostering the critical thinkers, democratic leaders, and social activists that produce sustainable and equitable change.”

This program offers a unique opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary group of students whose perspective and expertise will enrich my academic experience.

-Katharine Olscamp, MPH-PAPH Student (EXSC)

Olscamp always had a passion for physical activity, but it didn’t become a professional interest for her until after she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and worked at a marketing firm for four years. In 2014, the Rochester, N.Y.-native returned to school to earn a second undergraduate degree—this time in kinesiology—and she knew she was finally on the right track. “I knew immediately that physical activity, and particularly the mental health and cognitive benefits, was something I wanted to study and be involved in long term,” Olscamp says. With an interest in the community level rather than the clinical or individual level, she determined that public health would be a good fit.

Joining the Arnold School’s EXSC department last fall, Olscamp began working toward a Master of Public Health in Public Health and Physical Activity—the first academic program in the nation designed to prepare professionals to increase physical activity and improve health in populations. “Each semester here the opportunities and experiences are helping to shape my direction and plans for the future,” says Olscamp. “With my MPH degree, I would like to work in a project management role within a government agency or nonprofit dedicated to increasing physical activity in older adulthood as a way to promote optimal aging and brain health.” She’s also pursuing a Certificate of Graduate Study in Gerontology through the College of Social Work. “This coursework is a perfect complement to the Arnold School’s public health and exercise science curriculum and allows me to develop a deeper understanding of the population of interest to me: aging adults,” she says.  

With her Graduate Civic Scholars experience, Olscamp plans to connect her classroom and research experiences to the public through working with community partners. She also hopes to discover new ways of approaching public health problems and benefit from her interactions with the other scholars. “This program offers a unique opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary group of students whose perspective and expertise will enrich my academic experience,” says Olscamp. “I look forward to the support and challenge that the other people in my cohort will provide.”

I’m interested in understanding how we can proactively integrate child health into public policies in Columbia and build relationships with key stakeholders—all while gaining hands-on experience in community-engaged work.

-Aditi Srivastav, DrPH Student (HPEB)

After earning an undergraduate degree in American Government, Srivastav moved to the D.C. area, where she had grown up, and earned a Master of Public Health with a focus on health policy and worked in the federal health policy arena. Her professional experiences range from working for a lobbyist focused on hospital policy to supporting pediatric advocacy and policy issues at the American Academy of Pediatrics. But it was Srivastav’s most recent role as the manager of the adverse childhood experiences portfolio at AcademyHealth that helped her realize her passion for bridging policy and research, ultimately leading her to pursue a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) in HPEB at the Arnold School. She believes that the DrPH program is the perfect fit for building on her experience in health policy while helping her learn the best techniques for research and evaluation.

“One of the reasons why I chose the HPEB department was because I wanted to learn more about how policies are translated to the state, community and local level, and alternatively, informed by research,” she says. “Working on federal policy has given me a strong understanding of the underlying factors that guide public health in our country and has also motivated me to try and understand how policies fall short, by looking at public health in a different lens, one that recognizes the need for meaningful, sustainable interventions and community-based research that recognizes the various nuances of health.”

Srivastav was especially attracted to Arnold School because of its location, providing her a unique opportunity to work with health in the South. The Graduate Civic Scholars will provide her with opportunities to understand existing community culture, needs, efforts and collaborations that impact public health—skills that she can apply in her future career. “I’m interested in understanding how we can proactively integrate child health into public policies in Columbia and build relationships with key stakeholders—all while gaining hands-on experience in community-engaged work,” she says. “It also allows me to be a part of an interdisciplinary community of student entrepreneurs who believe in the importance of social justice, who will keep me motivated and inspired.” Srivastav, who is also an Arnold Doctoral Fellow, sees herself leading a non-profit agency dedicated to children’s health one day.

Each of the new Graduate Civic Scholars will engage in a collaborative university-community project as proposed in their application materials. They will present their findings at Graduate Student Day in 2017 and will receive a transcript notation upon completion of the program.

The GCSP, begun in 2015, is organized by The Graduate School in cooperation with the Career Center, Office of the Vice President for Research, Office of Student Engagement, Graduate Student Association, and Center for Teaching Excellence. Professors Kirk Foster (Social Work) and Allison Marsh (History) serve as Co-Directors for 2016-2017.