Abigail Ventimiglia, a BSHP/MPH student and ambassador in the College of Public Health, is making the most out of the experiential and service learning opportunities provided at UGA.
Over the past 4 years, Abigail has supported educational programming at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia; conducted health policy research for a consulting firm; assisted horticulture trials; helped food insecure families in Athens; and worked with the City of Decatur to improve health and wellbeing at the local level.
“I fell in love with UGA because of how social and welcoming the people were in addition to the numerous opportunities that come with attending a big school. There’s practically a club for everything! Plus, an MPH in my field opens so many more doors,” she said.
Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion, Global Health Minor
Master of Public Health in Health Policy and Management, Graduate Certificate in Gerontology
Why did you choose to pursue both your Bachelor’s and Master of Public Health degrees? Why UGA?
I’m currently pursuing my MPH and Bachelor’s through the Double Dawgs program here at UGA. I came in with many AP and dual enrollment credits from high school, and I knew I wanted to spend a full four years in college. I fell in love with UGA because of how social and welcoming the people were in addition to the numerous opportunities that come with attending a big school. There’s practically a club for everything! Plus, an MPH in my field opens so many more doors.
What particular area/field of public health are you passionate about?
I’m very interested in global health, gerontology, and sexual and reproductive health.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your time at the College?
The Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar Program was one of my favorite opportunities at UGA. I was able to meet some truly incredible people in my cohort, and I wouldn’t have the friends I have today without it.
I was accepted as a PSO Student Scholar last year and worked with the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia. I helped them revitalize their educational K-12 curriculum about native plant and pollinator conservation in addition to serving on their Garden Ambassador Learning by Leading Team to maintain social media and film educational videos. I’d like to highlight the Education Department for providing a truly personal and committed effort to ensure I had the best experience possible. They took a real interest in who I was beyond the internship, and I will always appreciate that.
Additionally, I became very close with my PSO cohort and much of this can be attributed to the weekend trip to Skidaway Island where we visited the UGA Marine Extension unit. Whether it was the long drive, the boat ride, or the brief visit to Savannah, I was able to develop long-lasting and genuine connections with the other PSO scholars. In fact, one of my favorite memories from last year included weekly bubble tea breaks back in Athens when those of us who didn’t have class after the Friday PSO meeting would drive downtown and hang out for an hour or two at Bubble Cafe (highly recommend!).
As PSO scholars, we were asked to take part in a promotional photo shoot for the inaugural Winter WonderLights at the Botanical Gardens. It’s a great example of the different- and sometimes random- opportunities we had!
Additionally, I wanted to highlight the Education Department at the Botanical Gardens for providing a truly personal and committed effort to ensure I had the best experience possible. They took a real interest in who I was beyond the internship, and I will always appreciate that.
What internship experiences have you undertaken? What internships do you have planned? Why did you pursue these internship experiences? What did you learn?
I don’t know yet what I will do for my MPH internship. However, I’m very proud of the one I’m doing for my undergrad degree. I’ll be working in healthcare consulting at FTI Consulting this summer in Washington D.C., specifically in their Health Solutions Risk Advisory department. I worked in their Atlanta department last year, and I learned that data is more important than ever. It is the driving force behind health promotion programs and health policy. It informs our processes better, and I want to be able to access, understand, and explain data in a way everyone can understand.
During my FTI Consulting internship in Atlanta, I was added to current client projects, which meant I worked on conducting health policy research, doing health-related data analytics, and creating visualizations and presentations. Many of these projects were about health insurance claims and healthcare regulations.
Additionally, I had a summer intern project that involved researching and defining Medicaid, identifying high-risk states for hospice malpractice, and coming up with different recommendations to implement. This culminated in a capstone presentation to a wide range of practice leaders.
The biggest challenge I faced during the internship was feeling intimidated to ask questions when I hit a roadblock. I now recognize the importance of asking for help when I need it and to know that the term “learning curve” exists for a reason.
Do you have any volunteer experiences that were especially meaningful?
I’ve volunteered at the UGA Trial Gardens and Campus Kitchen for the past year and half, and they are among some of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had at UGA. The people running the organizations are incredibly hardworking and kind. In addition to the hands-on work I get to do each week, they are the reason why I keep returning.
The Trial Gardens at UGA consists of a greenhouse and outdoor garden area. It is a thriving center of research and education where horticulturists test a variety of trial plants from commercial plant breeders in the humid Georgia climate. I’ve invested more than 80 hours of volunteer work with maintenance, pest control, and planting. With all the plants I’ve accumulated since quarantine, the knowledge I’ve learned at the Trials Gardens has come in handy.
Campus Kitchen is a student-run organization that is devoted to feeding those in need in the local Athens-Clarke County community. This includes distributing weekly meals to families, passing out fresh fruits and vegetables in parking lots to people experiencing homelessness, and stocking community fridges. I typically volunteer during the Food Processing shifts, which can encompass many different activities. I’ve become well-versed in building metal shelving to house hundreds of pounds of cans, packaged food, and fruits and vegetables from the garden. I’ve packaged weekly paper bags for delivery and filled them with bread, fruits and vegetables, and other supplies. I’ve sorted through okra, lettuce, kale, basil, and more to fill up coolers with bags of produce to be distributed at the Covenant Presbyterian Church. In preparation for Turkeypalooza, I helped move shelving and reorganize storage space to fit the necessary number of cans. I counted and stocked many of the donations that arrived. On one particularly eventful day, my fellow volunteers and I transferred over three thousand eggs into the fridges. As the seasons changed, I’ve spent time in the garden harvesting vegetables and herbs. I’ve learned how to identify ones that were safe to eat, compost the ones that had rotted or been consumed by bugs, and proper techniques for gathering.
What activities/achievements/awards during your time here are you most proud of?
I just found out I received the College’s Undergraduate Recognition Award in Health Promotion for my achievements during my time at UGA, and I’m very proud of that. It’s very rewarding to see the culmination of my hard work.
Are there any extracurricular interests that you enjoy?
I love playing tennis and badminton with friends. Additionally, you can often find my roommates and I locked in an intense game of Scrabble on any given night of the week. If it wasn’t obvious from my time at the Botanical Gardens, Trial Gardens, or UGArden (where some Campus Kitchen shifts are held), I also love plants!
What insights have you gained as a public health student?
I’ve spent a large part of this year working as a Health Equity Fellow with the City of Decatur to improve health and wellbeing at a local level. It’s taught me that everyone has a unique skill set and background, and communication is vitally important to working together and creating meaningful change.
What are your plans beyond graduation?
After finishing up my MPH, I hope to work abroad in global health or domestically in health policy or consulting. But who knows? I’ve also thought about joining the Peace Corps!
Posted on April 27, 2023.