Q and A with Kinyell Gaston
Kinyell is currently a student in the MPH in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences program.
What attracted you to the MPH in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences program at UIC as opposed to programs at other schools?
For my career path in workplace wellness, I felt that EOHS was the best division for me. While public health is related to workplace wellness, EOHS also allowed me to further stand out from the public health crowd and have a real potential career path doing something to improve the environment or workplace as a whole. EOHS allows for a balance of new content, specificity, and career trajectory.
What do you love about living and learning in Chicago?
Living in Chicago is really nice. There are so many different places to visit. The amount of food options is amazing here as well. The plethora of entertainment options, day or night, actually make learning better. As you balance your academic and social lives, restaurants like Hawkeye’s can serve as a getaway. You meet so many people during these times and they oftentimes becomes great assets and even better friends. The scenery is nice most of the time and public transportation makes it pretty easy to get around. Downtown Chicago is minutes away and whether you are studying or hanging out, you are having fun.
How would you characterize your student life experience as an EOHS student?
My experience has been really good; everyone in EOHS has been really supportive. From a student standpoint, it has been exciting to be here because a growing number of people (students and civilians) are getting to know more about the discipline because of current events and concepts like worker rights and climate change. The division as a whole is goal and student orientated, which has allowed me to build strong relationships with students, faculty, and staff. For example, those of us that have been in the MPH Integrated Core together have really grown close as we have been experiencing the class together. I have also gotten a lot of support from second year students and goal orientated faculty advisors. The EOHS Academic Coordinator (Ed Zordani) has also been great. He always seems to know the answers to my questions or knows the person that can assist and has been very helpful picking out classes. I feel the network we have in EOHS really sets us up for success.
How would you describe your relationships with EOHS faculty and staff?
I have developed good relations and gotten close with a lot of faculty even if they are not in my immediate area of interest. Dr. Brandt-Rauf, Dr. Brosseau, Dr. Conroy, Dr. Dorevitch, Dr. Jones, Dr. Li, Dr. Swedler, Dr. Zanoni, Ryan Cole, and Marsha Love have been very supportive and encouraged me to meet my goals, even introducing me to people that may be able to help me career wise. They have also given me a lot of academic support. The best part about it is, the relationships I built, regardless if it is from an advisory or academic role, make me feel comfortable going back to them for additional assistance and insight. Especially as a first year student, it is a great idea to get to know your professors.
What advice would you give to an incoming graduate student at UIC? Is there something you wish you had known when you started out?
I wish I would have known the amount of work that was really expected, the workload is a lot different from your undergraduate program. Two pieces of advice for incoming students, 1) learn how to read, and read in a particular way. For example, you need to be able to pick out and focus on key concepts, which will be a true skill set you will need in the future. This is something that professors work with you to develop within the first few months.. 2) Get to know a second year student; they have a wealth of experience and knowledge. Second year students have experienced exactly what you are dealing with and can be great resources for support and companionship. Graduate school does not have to be too intimidating, it is a big deal, but you can do really well once you focus.