Graduating public health senior gives commencement address
Emma Watson graduated from Texas A&M University at 2 p.m. Friday, May 10, with a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health. She was selected by the university for an honor few Aggies ever receive, to give the commencement address as her fellow classmates and other college graduates prepare to turn their Aggie Rings to face the world.
Watson will spend the summer in Washington D.C. working at the National Academy of State Health Policy as a policy analyst on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid team. In the fall, she will join the New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service to pursue a Master of Public Administration in Health Policy and Management.
When she first arrived on campus in the fall of 2016, Watson originally enrolled as a biology major, but after her New Student Conference, she searched for other majors that would spark her interest.
“I said ‘no thank you’ to biology when I first arrived and, in somewhat of a happenstance, found the School of Public Health,” Watson said. “Then I was invited to apply to the Broad Street Society.”
Broad Street, a nickname stemming from the street in London that was once home to the pump that began the study of epidemiology, is an honor society open to a small number of high-achieving undergraduate students majoring in public health. Students work under Don Curtis, PhD, assistant dean of undergraduate studies, and engage with interactive faculty lectures, the examination of literature related to public health and exposure to international experiences. Students are selected based on a holistic view of high school achievements and begin the program during the fall of their freshman year.
“I was lucky enough to be a part of the inaugural Broad Street class,” Watson said. “During the program, we were able to visit London and saw the actual Broad Street pump, which is where the study of public health began. The program charged me with researching the history of a nation I knew little about and provided me with a small community and involved faculty members to guide my inquiry.”
According to Watson, programs such as the Broad Street Society are one of the many reasons why she found a home within the School of Public Health. While Texas A&M’s campus consists of roughly 70,000 students, Watson said the School of Public Health makes Aggieland feel a lot smaller.
In addition to the programs offered at the School of Public Health, Watson describes the public health undergraduate degree as a tool that can be applied to many disciplines.
“We are not just studying biology and chemistry, but also how these systems and structures affect people and their access to health care around the world,” Watson said.
As Watson heads off to the East Coast, she will continue to work toward her goal of being an advocate for women’s health. She aspires to become a political advocate for health care-oriented organizations. According to Watson, the opportunities at the School of Public Health have placed her on the right track.
“Texas A&M is one of the most competitive schools in the state and it’s affordable,” Watson said. “You’re a part of a huge Aggie network. You have an array of resources as a student, but then in the School Public Health, you still have that small school feel. I feel like I got the best of both worlds of going to a small school but also being a part of this massive campus and having access to its resources.”
Although Watson’s time at Texas A&M has come to an end, she encourages prospective and current students to make the most out of their experiences before they walk across the stage.
“You can decide what you want from the School of Public Health, and someone will help you figure out how to achieve it,” Watson said. “If you have a goal, our faculty are always willing to help. Let them know you are considering graduate school or if you’re looking at a certain job; there’s always someone who is willing to help you maximize your experience here.