Allegheny College senior Jonah Raether has been awarded the Henry J. and Erna D. Leir Fellowship to fully fund his Master of Health Science degree in community and global health at Clark University in Massachusetts.
Graduating from Allegheny with majors in environmental studies and global health studies, Raether will begin the highly competitive graduate program in the fall of 2018. The fellowship will allow Raether to mentor other incoming students, serve as a program ambassador at national and international conferences, and participate in the Urban Healthscapes Collaboratory.
“I visited Clark for a graduate student open house in October,” says Raether. “I was intrigued by the opportunity it would give me to serve as a representative for the Community and Global Health program, while also working closely with both the university and the City of Worcester to tackle key health issues locally.”
Raether will be among the more than 350 graduates honored at Allegheny’s Commencement on May 12.
While at Allegheny, Raether learned valuable lessons from his classes and professors, as well as his involvement with groups on campus, such as the Outing Club and the Bonner program, he says.
“Allegheny has taught me the importance of interdisciplinary classes and working with students and faculty from a range of academic backgrounds,” said Raether. “The Master of Health Science Program at Clark works on a similar model, so I feel ready to tackle that challenge. Both the Environmental Science and Global Health Studies Departments at Allegheny have a model that teaches students to not only do work and research well, but also how to talk about that work effectively and present the material confidently — skills that I think will be very valuable in the graduate program.”
“This fellowship is a well-deserved honor and a recognition of Jonah’s extraordinary ability to analyze and tackle complex global challenges with an informed perspective, critical foresight, and outstanding character,” says Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Benjamin Haywood, one of Raether’s academic advisors. “Jonah has engaged fully in the plethora of opportunities available to Allegheny students over his four years, excelling in a wide range of classes across disciplines, fusing his studies via independent research and study-away experiences, integrating himself in the Meadville community, and assuming leadership within student organizations,” Haywood notes.
Even though Raether has focused much of his time in the environmental studies and global health studies programs, it was initially the Bonner program that brought him to Allegheny.
“It helped make Allegheny affordable and made my decision to come here pretty easy,” says Raether. “Being a Bonner meant that I was engaged in the Meadville community from day one, and through the program I’ve been lucky to build strong relationships with members of both the Meadville and Allegheny communities. Some of my closest friends are a part of the Bonner program as well, and working alongside them has made my time here very memorable.”
As a leader of the Outing Club on campus, Raether’s experience with the group has led to other work with wilderness and environmental interests. “I’ve met people from every corner of Allegheny, and shared terrific outdoor experiences with them,” he says. “Most importantly, the Outing Club has shown me the value of stepping away from campus for even a short while, as a way of decompressing and reminding myself of the things that are really important. The experiences I’ve had through the club have also strengthened my interest in the relationship between human beings and the environments around us.”
Involvement in the Outing Club was also the precursor to Raether’s time with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) through its multi-month wilderness medicine field experience.
“We lived outside for almost three months, exploring parts of the U.S. that not many people get to see, learning and seeing a lot,” Raether recounted. “It was amazing to get out of a classroom for a while and learn in the field with an excellent group of people. I studied emergency medicine in a wilderness setting, which provided a deeper context to my interest in inaccessibility and inequity of healthcare. The most valuable thing I took from my time with NOLS was the training I got as an Emergency Medical Technician. Since returning, I have worked part-time as an EMT at Meadville Area Ambulance Service.”
After graduating from Allegheny, Raether’s pursuit of his master’s degree will take him further toward what he hopes to focus on — work in the field of natural disaster preparedness and response.
“I’m especially interested in focusing on healthcare access and infrastructure for vulnerable and underrepresented populations in the aftermath of a natural disaster,” Raether says. “Both the fellowship and the master’s program as a whole will encourage me to look at these global issues within a local context. Through the fellowship, I will get the opportunity to work with faculty and community partners to try and find solutions for health issues and disparities — experiences that will hopefully act as the groundwork for future employment or research.”
Haywood is confident that Raether is well-prepared for that future. “Jonah has capitalized on the value of a liberal arts education and is now poised to become a leader in global health and environmental justice,” Haywood says. “I look forward to seeing how he will utilize his time at Clark to create a more equitable and sustainable world.”