Class of 2018 Exhibits Contagious Enthusiasm for Subject of Infectious Disease

The Class of 2018 gathered with the US Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, one of their Learning Lab II speakers, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
The Class of 2018 gathered with the US Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, one of their Learning Lab II speakers, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Students in the Park Scholarships Class of 2018 traveled to Washington, D.C. during their fall break for the Learning Lab II experience, designed to allow sophomore Park Scholars to develop a critical understanding of a nationally-relevant topic by interacting with leaders immersed in that issue. The class opted to explore the United States’ role in addressing infectious disease both domestically and internationally – a topic they selected nearly a year ago, when West Africa’s Ebola virus epidemic dominated the world’s headlines.

While some members of the class initially expressed apprehension about this topic, all ultimately found it to be a remarkably fascinating launch pad for discussions of leadership challenges.

Kobi Felton '18 outside the U.S. Supreme Court Building
Kobi Felton ’18 outside the U.S. Supreme Court Building

“To me, Learning Lab II was not about infectious diseases; it wasn’t about Ebola or cholera or AIDS,” said Chandler Gonzales ‘18. “Rather, it was about leadership, politics, and most importantly, civic engagement. The further along I got in the trip, the more I realized that the infectious disease problem was merely a starting point to get us talking.”

Based on their conversations with scientists, government officials, and communications professionals, many students came away from this Learning Lab II with a newfound respect for the kind of nuanced collaboration required to manage issues as complex as infectious disease outbreaks.

“Since coming to NC State, the concept of using interdisciplinary collaboration to forge innovative solutions has become increasingly close to my heart,” said Allyson Patterson ‘18. “Preventing and addressing infectious disease requires professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds and careers to work together. From a social scientist’s understanding of culture, to an engineer’s expertise in logistics, to a biologist’s ability to examine pathogens, it takes a team to combat infectious disease. This is true for many, if not all, of the world’s most pressing issues. It is important for us to develop leadership skills that will enable collaboration in the workplace.”

Members of the class also noted the emphasis on precautionary – rather than reactive – measures as a common theme among the presentations they heard.

Maggie Linak '06 spoke with the Class of 2018 about her work with the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
Maggie Linak ’06 spoke with the Class of 2018 about her work with the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

“When the waters are calm and the situation is peaceful, disease prevention might seem unimportant or even like a waste of time,” Rachel Walter ‘18 remarked. “If done effectively, the result of prevention is… nothing. There’s no huge reward; life simply goes on without any disastrous interruptions. It can be easy to divert money and support away from disease prevention programs when there’s no disaster in sight. In retrospect, however, it’s easy to see that preventative measures are far less costly in the long run when it comes to infectious disease. Putting more time, money, and effort into disease prevention is insurance for the future.”

Numerous Park alumni played a role in the Class of 2018’s successful Learning Lab II. Albert Blackmon ‘08, Josh Chappell ‘14, Greg Mulholland ‘07, and Jacqueline Smith ‘06 assisted the trip planning committee in securing compelling presenters. In addition to serving as a presenter herself, Maggie Linak ‘06 led the class on an informative nighttime tour of Washington, D.C.’s monuments. John Kelly ‘07, Kylie Goodell King ‘08, and Stephanie Solove ‘13 met with the Class of 2018 during the first evening of their trip to discuss leadership challenges they encounter in their respective fields. Finally, William Coe ‘14, Caitlin Cox ‘12, Leah Haile ‘13, Alex Hall ‘03, Justin Hills ‘14, and Kirk Southern ‘10 joined the sophomores for various components of their time in the nation’s capital.

Learning Lab II Pre- and Post-Trip Speakers

  • Marcelo Anderson, Business Manager, Biogen
  • Julie Casani, Branch Head and Bioterrorism Coordinator, NC Department of Health and Human Services
  • Michael Emch, Professor and Department Chair of Geography and Professor of Epidemiology, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Chris McDonald, General Manager, Holly Springs Site, CSL Limited (formerly Novartis Vaccines)
  • Bill Roper, Dean of the UNC School of Medicine, Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill, and CEO of the UNC Health Care System

Learning Lab II Speakers

  • Moises Agosto-Rosario, Director of Treatment, National Minority AIDS Council
  • John Blaney, Special Adviser, Deloitte Consulting and Former US Ambassador to Liberia
  • Athalia Christie, Deputy of Global Health, Center for Global Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Jacqueline Coleman, Director of the Leadership Pipeline, National Minority AIDS Council
  • Liz Garman, Vice President for Communications, Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology
  • Andrew Hebbeler, Deputy Director of the Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction, US Department of State
  • Maggie Linak ‘06, Program Manager, US Agency for International Development
  • Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Catherine Templeton, Former Director, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
  • Thom Tillis, US Senator from North Carolina
  • Sapana Vora, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, US Department of State
The Class of 2018 Learning Lab II Committee on the U.S. Capitol steps.
The Class of 2018 Learning Lab II Committee on the U.S. Capitol steps.

In addition to meeting with speakers, while in Washington the Class of 2018 toured the U.S. Capitol Building; witnessed the changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery; saw a performance by the Capitol Steps at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center; dined on traditional Ethiopian and Cuban cuisine; and, in small groups, visited points of interest such as the Natural History Museum, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Gallery of Art, and National Zoo. Several students also participated in the 20th annual Million Man March on the National Mall.

Learning Laboratory II Committee

  • Jeremy Nortey ‘18 (co-chair)
  • Dani Winter ‘18 (co-chair)
  • Evan Brooks ‘18
  • Allie Dinwiddie ‘18
  • Richa Patel ‘18
  • Nicole Stelling ‘18

View more photos from the Class of 2018’s Learning Lab II in this Facebook album.

posted 2015.10.23