Student Summer Research at the Schroeder Center

During summer 2012, Joel White, a rising senior at William & Mary majoring in Public Policy and Theatre worked with the Schroeder Center on a project that seeks to enhance the abilities of local policymakers and other essential community stakeholders to use data and proven results to make decisions about policies, programs, and practices that affect the community's health. Staff member, Elizabeth Vestal sat down with Joel to ask him about his experience working with the Schroeder Center.

Elizabeth Vestal:  Why are you interested in health policy?
Joel White: I have always been a public policy fanatic. Ever since I was old enough to start really thinking about policy, I've found it to be really intellectually stimulating to search for ways to improve things like education, the economy, and public health. My mother was a pharmacist, and when I was in high school I often volunteered with her at free clinics. I really gained an appreciation for the work that clinics do and the vital services they provide. I applied for this job as a research assistant primarily because I was excited to have an opportunity to look at the effect those kinds of organizations were having on the Williamsburg community and, if possible, find ways to further their goals.

EV: Tell me in your own words a little about what you worked on this summer for the Schroeder Center?
JW: I really got to work on a variety of tasks this summer, which was very nice. I spent some time doing data entry, both from survey results and from data I collected from various local and state agencies. I also did comprehensive research for literature reviews. The topics ranged from school health interventions to cardiac care. Probably my favorite project was taking all of the data I had collected from various sources and finding creative ways to represent them visually. I'm a very visual learner, so I really enjoyed designing charts and graphs that most effectively conveyed the narrative I needed to show.

EV: Did you gain any skills over the summer that might be beneficial to you in the future?
JW: Absolutely! As a Public Policy and Theatre double major, I don't usually spend very much time culling databases for scientific journal articles. The time I spent doing that this summer familiarized me with yet another useful academic skill that I'm sure will come in handy later on. Through my research, I also learned valuable information about what initiatives are being taken to improve public health and how effective they have been. If I ever decide to work in the field of health policy full time, I now definitely have a feel for what I would want to focus on.

EV: What are your plans during your last year at W&M and what do you hope to do after graduation?
JW: I certainly have all the plans in place for a busy senior year. I will likely be involved with anywhere from four to seven productions in the Theatre department this year as an actor, scenic carpenter, publicity director, or dramaturge. I will also be serving as the president of Alpha Psi Omega Theatre Honors Fraternity and as the Arts and Culture Editor with The Virginia Informer. My post-graduation plans are a little more undefined, but I would like to move to the Washington, DC area and see what kind of opportunity I can find, whether it be in the world of theatre or policy.