March 2017 GHC eNewsletter
Erin Milner, GHC Class of 2003, recently received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley and moved to Washington, D.C. for a job with the federal government to help improve nutrition for vulnerable children in Africa. She discovered her passion for global environmental issues as a junior in high school. We caught up with her to learn more about how her path took her from Granada to across the globe, making the world a better place along the way.
Did you have a memorable class at Granada?
My path was largely influenced by Ms. Crawford’s AP Environmental Science course that I took my junior year (2001-02). I remember one day learning about the Peace Corps and environmental conditions and food systems in Africa and low-income countries, which really struck me. It made me want to learn more about life in those places and improve inequities that I wasn’t previously aware of.
What University did you attend and what was your degree in? Why did you pick those?
I attended UC Irvine for my BA degree in Environmental Science and Public Health followed by my M.S. and Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in Environmental Health Sciences and Nutrition. I chose to earn my degrees in this field because I was motivated to sustainably improve health globally and these areas of study were interesting to me.
Describe your career path after college.
After I earned my bachelor’s degree, I joined the Peace Corps and did environmental and health work in rural Ghana for over two years. When I returned from traveling around West Africa, I worked for a small organization evaluating the air pollution and health impacts of wood and charcoal stoves that households in Africa use. This work took me back to Ghana and then to Uganda and Tanzania. I earned my master’s degree at UC Berkeley in global public health and directed a nutrition and education program in Kenya with a local nonprofit organization (Organic Health Response). I led a research program around Lake Victoria in Kenya assessing how major changes to the fishery and Lake Victoria environment impacted surrounding communities’ food security and nutrition. After starting this research, I decided to continue the work in Kenya and deepen my understanding of environmental and health issues by earning my Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in Environmental Health Sciences with a nutrition focus. While earning my Ph.D., I also facilitated another program in a different part of Kenya evaluating the effect of environmental interventions on young children’s nutrition and development.
What is your current career?
I am currently a Nutrition Advisor with the Public Health Institute and USAID (United States Agency for International Development: federal government branch that is responsible for foreign aid, including development and humanitarian assistance). I am working to improve nutrition throughout Africa by collaborating with partners in a variety of countries. My focus is on young children and improving environmental conditions, food security, maternal health, and ultimately child growth and development. We are taking a holistic approach to maximize children’s nutrition, especially those who are vulnerable, while striving to sustainably address acute and chronic malnutrition.
How do you feel Granada helped prepare you for the future?
The classes I took at Granada were very rigorous. For instance, I was able to enroll in several honors and AP courses. I also appreciate the variety of classes offered. Many schools do not offer electives like environmental science and the AP Environmental Science course I took really sparked my interest. I also enjoyed taking sign language, which I used after my time at Granada when volunteering at a homeless shelter at UC Irvine, while in the Peace Corps in Ghana, and to communicate with deaf individuals in Kenya. The career counseling services also helped me apply to colleges and prepare for entering a university. Finally, the diversity of activities Granada had (e.g. clubs and extracurricular activities) allowed me to explore my interests while learning about time management and the importance of balancing studies with service, exercise, and fun!