Two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, UVM Community and International Development Major Julia LanzDuret-Hernandez stumbled upon an opportunity to be a research assistant at the University of Rochester Medical Center's Office of Community Outreach, Engagement and Disparities. Julia’s work includes transcribing and translating interviews, assisting in data collection, and data organization of predominantly qualitative research. Interested in implicit bias in the healthcare system, Julia’s first project revolved around migrant farmworkers within their community.
“I realized these farmworkers, for example, were not receiving the support or aid that they needed in a pandemic and that there were a lot of inequities that were being highlighted with what was going on with COVID-19,” Julia explained. This led to a revelation about their interests. “I have always been very interested in social justice and environmental impact. But through this interaction I realized healthcare, the health of humans, is what everything revolves around.”
Julia found their major, Community and International Development, as a sophomore. Julia attributes the focusing of their interests and sharpening of their skills to classes she had previously taken through their CDAE education, including Sustainable Community Development with Kelly Hamshaw, World Food and Population Development with Daniel Tobin, and Foundations of Public Communication with Ben Dangl. Julia specifically mentions CDAE 102: Sustainable Community Development as one of the attributing factors to their passion in community interests.
“[The Sustainable Community Development class] revolved around community development and community sustainability and made me realize the importance of local communities and community stakeholders, and including local residents in discussions on how to aid their community,” Julia said. Before that class, they had previously viewed human issues only on a global and national policy scale.
After Sustainable Community Development, their perspective on public health and human health issues became increasingly more localized. “I realized how important it is to go back to local communities and make sure you’re including folks from that area who already have so much knowledge and information on how their communities work,” they said.
CDAE 002: World, Food, and Population Development showed Julia the importance of qualitative data in finding community-based solutions. “It’s looking at people as humans and their experiences, not as numbers and really getting to just hear their thoughts and experiences to create better solutions for their communities,” they explained.
Julia’s personal background also benefitted them when finding this niche opportunity. Julia’s work has included organizing interviews with transgender people in the United States and in Puerto Rico, making half of their interviews in English and half of their interviews in Spanish. Julia identifies as Mexican-American-Canadian and at home speaks Spanish with their family. Their intersectional identity has helped them connect with a wide range of groups, including their most recent project working to prevent e-cigarette use among Spanish speaking and Latinx teens within Julia's community.
Julia attributed their success with communication and interviewing to their CDAE 024: Foundations of Public Communication class. “I have had to have conversations with community members locally, but also people who have had other experiences,” they explained. “So I know what to ask and how to receive their responses.” CDAE 024 highlighted the importance of cultural sensitivity within communication.
“Transgender people in particular and even more so Black transgender people, tend to be some of the most vulnerable people in our community and it’s important we get that information in healthcare so we can determine what needs to be done to further provide support for them,” Julia said. In their gender and healthcare projects, they help to figure out the most inclusive and comfortable approach to discussing gender identity across cultural lines and norms.
Beyond their work at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Julia praises CDAE's education and Community and International Development major. When asked about what they value in their education, Julia lit up and replied, “I feel like with this major and education I can really go out and just do anything.”