New graduate sees opportunities for social justice through community health 

Samantha Harrison photo

Samantha Harrison knew she wanted to pursue a career that advanced social justice when she enrolled in George Mason University. When she discovered the community health major at a Mason event, her interest was piqued.

“Then I took Global Health, and I instantly fell in love with it,” she said. “This is definitely my career.”

Harrison, who is graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree in community health with a global health concentration, said that discovering the community health degree provided her with a comprehensive way to achieve her ambitions to bring equity to communities through well-being. 

She first got involved in community health while in high school in New Jersey. Having grown up in a county that is a food desert, she began volunteering with a community garden program to bring fresh produce to the area. Her passion for helping others continued at Mason. Harrison, who was scheduled to complete an overseas internship in 2020, found her program cancelled at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, instead she helped at COVID clinics and with vaccination education efforts in Northern Virginia.

In addition to her work during the pandemic, Harrison worked with an area nonprofit on a comprehensive sex education curriculum and as a social services intern in the Mason and Partners (MAP) Clinics to connect uninsured and low-income patients with needed services. 

“The thing I love about public health is that it’s so diverse and holistic,” she said. “You really get to collaborate with different people to create programs that meet so many different needs.”

For her many efforts during her undergraduate career, Harrison was recognized at the College of Public Health Student Awards Ceremony with an Overall Excellence Award from the Department of Global and Community Health. 

"Samantha Harrison has been an excellent student and is always looking for learning opportunities,” said Brian Gillette, director of student success for the Department of Global and Community Health. “Samantha has demonstrated outstanding leadership, service to her community, academic excellence, and there are no words to describe her value as a person.”

After graduation, Harrison will begin the AmeriCorps and Centers for Disease Control Public Health Informatics Training Program. She will again work with the MAP Clinics, this time to help create interactive dashboards to give providers better data to improve patient care. She will also be deployed to the Fairfax County Health Department for similar work. 

While she’s participating in the informatics training program, Harrison says she will also expand her current part-time role as a patient access associate with Inova Health Systems to a full-time position. Eventually, Harrison hopes to become a public health analyst working on programs for uninsured and underrepresented populations. 

Harrison credits Mason and the College of Public Health faculty for the many opportunities she’s had as a student. “When I was in high school, I was told that [faculty at college] would be hard on you, that they wouldn’t care. That’s been the furthest from the truth about the faculty here at Mason,” she said. “Their number one priority is to see you succeed, and they will help you in any way possible.”