Challenging the Status Quo to Promote Equity in Health: How the College of Health Changed my Path


Graduate Spotlight – Ashley Pen 

Quick Facts

  • Hometown – San Francisco
  • Major – Sociology; Health, Medicine, and Society
  • Certificate - Population Health
  • Lehigh Activities – Engineers without Boarders Club; Bethlehem Food Co-Op
  • Personal Interests: Hiking, camping, skiing, and simply spending time outdoors

I treasured my College of Health (COH) experience. It was eye-opening and motivating, with a unique blend of courses that sparked my passion for public health.

As a student from the College of Arts and Science, I was genuinely delighted to be given the opportunity to earn a minor in the College of Health. One of the characteristics that attracted me to Lehigh was the ability to participate in course offerings across the colleges. I was able to remain in my major while also pursuing a minor in population health.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe many of us – even those not interested in health – have been forced to recognize the challenges in our healthcare system. Daily, we have been confronted by the reality that our nation has healthcare access and quality issues it must overcome. However, as we continue to recover, I believe many of us, especially younger generations, are inclined to change the status quo by implementing policies that promote a healthier and more equitable nation.

Adaptive and Responsive

Despite being remote during part of my junior and all of my senior year, I found the quality of this program to be exceptional, not only because the courses were interactive but also because the students and professors created an atmosphere that bolstered the group and made an exciting learning environment.

My favorite course was Methods in Epidemiology with Professor Skinner; it was fascinating to learn about the significant causes of mortality and morbidity in the U.S. and globally. I also thoroughly enjoyed interpreting epidemiologic study designs. Professor Skinner is an incredible professor whose passion shines in the classroom. Not only have I enjoyed his lectures during class, but also very much appreciate his career advice in public health. He is invested in his students and generously shares his insights.

Discovering a Passion

I discovered Lehigh’s plans regarding the development of the COH through an information session about the university’s future projects. Looking back, I’m very thankful I attended that session.

Throughout this program, I found that I was not limited to a narrow channel of health study. Instead, I could explore a world of health topics such as epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health

My favorite memory from my time with the COH was an “aha moment.” My first COH class was Introduction to Population Health, and I remember how ecstatic I was to finally be learning about the world of health. As we read through the syllabus outlining the various topics that would be covered during the course, my excitement mounted, and I remember saying to myself, “At last, this is where I belong!”

As a Lehigh graduate, I plan on pursuing a career in public health and have a specific interest in health promotion and education. The COH curriculum introduced me to how U.S. health policies can tend to be reactive rather than proactive. I believe it is essential to focus on implementing prevention policies rather than focusing on damage control. I plan to use the insights, evaluation techniques, and health-centric knowledge to continue my studies on a master’s level to contribute to the public health field by boosting prevention efforts.

Advice for Future COH Students

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. This is the time to put yourself out there and find what sparks your passion. Don’t let the pressure from parents, friends, or society make you turn away from what interests you.