September 23, 2013

Consavage ’15 Awarded Scholarship to Study Public Health in Brazil

Kate Consavage '15

Kate Consavage '15 was recently awarded a $10,000 Boren Scholarship, which she will use to study public health and Portuguese in Brazil during the spring 2014 semester. Funded by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), Boren Scholarships prioritize geographic areas, languages and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security and typically underrepresented in study-abroad programs.

While the NSEP will provide the funding, Consavage was able to select a program that fit her academic interests and goals. She chose the 15-week "Brazil: Public Health, Race and Human Rights" course through SIT Study Abroad, which examines Brazil's healthcare policies and allows students to observe through firsthand experience how these policies are put into practice.

"Brazil is definitely an up-and-coming country, but their health care system is already very advanced," Consavage said. "I think the U.S. could learn a lot from them."

The biology major became interested in the field of public health through her coursework at Emmanuel.

"As a member of the Honors Program, I was able to not only take courses in biology and anatomy, but in a wide range of other subjects," she said. "I took a class on justice, which focused on the rights all people should have, and a class on health care systems in different countries. All of these courses led me in the direction of public health."

During the first seven weeks of the program, which begins in March 2014, Consavage will live with a host family in Salvador, the capital of Bahia and home to Brazil's largest Afro-Brazilian population. There, she will participate in lectures on the racial, religious, economic and regional diversity of Brazil and the nation's health care system in relation to other systems throughout Latin America. As lectures are conducted primarily in Portuguese, Consavage plans to spend the next several months learning the basics of the language.

The second phase of the program involves field study in urban and rural communities, during which she will participate in community welfare projects for isolated and impoverished populations. She will also have the opportunity to visit federal, state, and municipal health facilities and Afro-Brazilian religious centers.

In the final four weeks, Consavage will engage in an independent study project based on her studies in the program.

In addition to the work that she will complete during her time abroad, a stipulation of the Boren Scholarship is that recipients must commit to seek work in the federal government after graduation. At this time, Consavage hopes to find a position with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

When searching for study abroad opportunities, she immediately knew that the Boren Scholarship fit what she was looking for. As a national scholarship, the application process was rigorous, but with the help of Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies and Director of Fellowships Laurie Johnston, Consavage was able to put together a successful application.

"[Johnston] really helped me make sure that my application stood out and that I highlighted myself in the best way," she said.

Johnston remarked that Consavage did a great job of thinking ahead-she had to apply for the scholarship in February 2013 in order to travel in spring 2014-but that the prestige of the award and the opportunities it provides were well worth the effort.

"Kate was really on top of things and we spent many weeks working together to polish her essays before she submitted them in February," Johnston said. "She is a wonderful student with a clear focus and very much deserves this opportunity."

Consavage noted that she is very excited, but also a little nervous.

"This is so different from anything I've ever done and from a lot of other study-abroad programs," she said. "I won't be in a dorm with other college students. It's very hands on, very independent."

On her return, she hopes to find an internship, using the knowledge she learned while in Brazil to find her niche in a very broad field. Her ultimate goal is to be able to share the information she learned in order to make a difference in the U.S. health-care system.