Biochemistry and Spanish major
As a pre-med student, I’m very interested in the social determinants of health. In medicine, these are the social, economic, and environmental factors that affect patient health outcomes. One of the things I find most interesting is the complex relationship these factors have with each other. It is nearly impossible to disentangle things like race, income, education, and resource availability, and for this reason discussions about any of the determinants must be multiplex. I believe the same is true of the topics the Echols Advisory Committee is wrestling with.
You can’t talk about diversity within the program without defining the mission of the program. You can’t define the mission of the program without discussing academic requirements (or a lack thereof). You can’t discuss academic requirements without having a conversation about extracurricular programming as well. Extracurricular programming will necessarily turn to funding. Funding in turn impacts the size of the program, which is relevant to issues regarding housing and program admissions. And, of course, admissions into the program is a large part of the discussion about diversity! It almost sounds like something out of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.
Clearly these issues are multifaceted. While I have described one of the ways several components of the program are related, it is important to recognize that there are many, many more. A giant, interconnected web is probably a better visual than the circle I have just outlined.
The EAC’s discussion of the aforementioned topics has been complex and frustrating, but it has also been very rewarding. I am thankful that the committee is comprised of a diverse group of current scholars, faculty, and alumni who are not afraid to tackle these complex issues. When we are all in one room, the determination of the EAC members is truly inspiring! While our work in subcommittees over the past year has allowed us to investigate individual components of the program in detail, I have found our committee-wide discussions to be the most effective at acknowledging the interplay between each aspect of the Echols program and at addressing the program’s direction as a whole.
I believe that one of the best parts of the Echols Scholars program is that it encourages curious students to form their own opinions and think critically about multifaceted issues. I wrote this reflection with this in mind. I have chosen not to share my opinions on the topics the committee discusses, but rather to inform you of the complexity of the problems the committee is attempting to solve. I hope this gives you an idea of some of the areas of concern we as a program are addressing, and I want to encourage you to think about the future of the program yourself. My hope is that students will feel comfortable reaching out to me with questions, comments, or concerns so that I may use my position as a student rep to advocate on their behalf.