Earning a pre-med degree at an Ivy League university sounded like the setup for a scary four years, says Courtney Landis ’22. In the College of Human Ecology, however, she’s found a welcoming and supportive academic home to pursue those grand aspirations. “Human Ecology students are more collaborative,” says Landis. “I think that comes from HumEc having a human-centered approach—it affects how professors and students treat each other.”
Landis credits PAM 2350: U.S. Healthcare System with opening her eyes to the real-world implications of her career ambition. “I think everyone interested in medicine, health, and how Medicare and Medicaid work in our country should take that class,” she says. “I said I wanted to be in medicine, but I never understood how the system works until I was challenged by that professor to do all the reading and think about it all.”
Human Ecology students are more collaborative. I think that comes from HumEc having a human-centered approach—it affects how professors and students treat each other.
Division of Nutritional Sciences
As a Human Biology, Health, and Society major, Landis has chosen courses throughout the College of Human Ecology. “If I could have designed a major for myself, it would have been HBHS,” she says. “It takes that core science and foundational knowledge and builds on it with courses on the societal implications on people’s lives and well-being.”
During the Spring 2020 semester, Kathleen Rasmussen, the Nancy Schlegel Meinig Professor of Maternal and Child Nutrition in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, invited Landis and her classmates in an upper-level public health nutrition course to explore how their home communities had responded to disruptions in food access caused by COVID-19. “I grew up in southeast Pennsylvania with farms across the street and supermarkets close by,” says Landis. “Food insecurity wasn’t talked about in my hometown.” Over the course of the semester Landis learned that indeed, food insecurity had always been an issue for some of her neighbors and that cafeteria workers at her high school alma mater had continued going to work to make sure that school lunches would be available to students who needed them.
Other courses introduced Landis to the fields of memory and neuroscience and medical decision-making. To learn more, she landed two research assistantships. In the Memory and Neuroscience Lab, Landis works approximately 10 hours each week with Human Development Professor Charles Brainerd testing fellow college students who’ve volunteered to participate in human research studies on topics like word memorization and eyewitness misidentification. In the Laboratory for Rational Decision Making, she works with Human Development Professor Valerie Reyna to develop and administer surveys on community knowledge, values and decisions regarding such topics as vaccination, COVID-19, genetically modified foods, and raw milk. “I’m very interested in the facts and it was rewarding to be working on a project so relevant to what we’re experiencing right now,” says Landis, who joined the group in May, after social distancing had replaced in-person team meetings with videoconferencing and email. “The one thing I really didn’t expect to gain was the personal connections with other people in the lab.”