Chyann Mealy

Graduate student in the Master of Public Health program with a concentration in Epidemiology

Striving & Thriving at VCU talks to Chyann about what led her to pursue a masters program, what her inspirations are, and why it's important to embrace true diversity in STEM.

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An interview with Chyann

What led you to pursue a master's program?

After studying abroad in Ghana, I did more research about how to get into research related to epidemiology for public health, and master’s degrees were preferred. I knew that if I were to pursue a master’s degree, I wanted a program that would prepare me, especially in epidemiology and research. I also wanted to be involved in a community where diversity is embraced, and I can be supported and motivated to accomplish more.

Did you take any time between undergrad and your graduate program?

Yes, I took a two-year gap. I graduated from James Madison University in 2017. After that, I studied abroad for about a month and a half in Ghana. From there, I really wanted to confirm that I wanted to do public health, but public health is so broad, so I took two years in between to figure out what way do I want to engage in public health work and for what population, which is women and children and also doing infectious diseases related work. I recommend taking a two-year gap because you really want to be sure of what you want to do but also have that goal in mind that you are going to advance your education.

Where do you find inspiration or motivation?

I find motivation from my LinkedIn account. There are so many different underrepresented professionals that are doing great work and I find motivation from them. I find motivation from my family because I am a first-generation student. I’ll be the first person in my family to obtain a master’s degree. So, breaking those generational curses and expanding my younger siblings’ knowledge of what they’re capable of achieving. My family definitely are a big motivation, a support for me, and inspiration for me. I have mentors in my life too that are very inspirational. Sometimes I think that what I’m doing is not enough, when in reality I’m doing more than enough and I’m accomplishing great things.

Why is it important to have true diversity in the STEM fields?

I think it is important to have diversity in STEM fields because there is more behind a face. When you’re limited to a specific field, to a specific group of people, you’re not embracing the capabilities or knowledge of other people that do not look like you. We are all multifaceted, talented, human beings and we all come with great knowledge. Limiting the field or task or project to selected groups of people, you’re not moving the needle, you’re not progressing.