Student Speaker Spotlight: Nuratu Quarshie

Quarshie is an MPH candidate and the graduate school speaker for the 53rd UConn Health Commencement on May 6, 2024

Nuratu Quarshie is an MPH student and a speaker at the 2024 Commencement. April 2, 2024 (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health)

Why did you choose UConn?

I chose the University of Connecticut for its Master of Public Health program. UConn is one of the three schools in the state that has accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health, which assured me of the quality and credibility of the program, backing my decision to pursue my graduate studies here.

Tell us more about your path to graduate school.

My journey to graduate school has been quite an adventure, starting from my days at Holy Child High School in Cape Coast, Ghana. There, I studied general science, which was kind of like a premed track. It laid the groundwork for my interest in health and science.

Fast forward to Westminster College in Missouri, where I majored in Biology and Public Health. Initially, I wanted to go into healthcare, but between internships, research projects, and extracurriculars, I found my passion for public health growing stronger by the day.

Now, as I am graduating from the University of Connecticut’s Master of Public Health program, I can’t help but reflect on the twists and turns that brought me here. I am forever grateful to my parents for giving me the gift of education.

What activities were you involved with as a student?

I tried to involve myself as much as I could. I was a member of the Public Health Student Organization and the Graduate Students of Color Association. I also did a lot of volunteering, my favorite experience was helping out with a free eye clinic that Vision Health International hosted sometime last year. We worked with more than 200 people without access to eye care and scheduled them to receive eyeglasses. I also worked with the Violence Against Women’s Program at the Women’s Center, which allowed me to do a lot of advocacy work and contribute to prevention and education efforts.

What’s one thing that surprised you about UConn?

I was genuinely surprised by the research scene here. Everywhere I turned, there were exciting projects, from studies on chronic diseases to innovative approaches to community health. What struck me most was the inclusivity of it all – faculty, grad students, undergrads – everyone seemed to be doing some sort of research, each bringing their own unique perspective to the table.

What’s one thing every student should do during their time at UConn?

I think every student should take advantage of the opportunities for experiential learning and community engagement offered at UConn. Whether through internships, research projects, service-learning initiatives, etc., and go to the Dairy Bar! (try the Chocolate Brownie Fudge)

Who inspired you to enter public health? Or who was your favorite mentor here and why?

My inspiration to enter public health came from my upbringing in Ghana, where I witnessed the firsthand impact that access to quality healthcare and surrounding determinants of health can have on individuals and communities. “How can I help as many people as possible?” This question was my primary motivation. Growing up, I always had a passion for health. I thought the only career option for that passion would be the medical field, hence the start of my educational path. But here I am now receiving my MPH and I could not be happier!

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I’m heading back to Ghana to kickstart my foundation’s first rounds of pop-up clinics. Thanks to a grant my team and I won, we’re ready to hit the ground running. I’m really excited because these clinics aren’t just about patching up health issues; they’re about empowering communities with the knowledge and resources they need to thrive.

What’s one thing that will always make you think of UConn?

Every time I see a husky dog, I think of UConn haha! But I would say the relationships I have formed along the way.

What does being a part of UConn mean to you?

Being a part of UConn, for me, signifies not only academic achievement but also a commitment to service, leadership, and lifelong learning. It represents a journey of personal and professional growth. #bleedblue

What’s it going to be like to walk across the Commencement stage and get your degree?

Time flew by so quickly, I can’t lie. Walking across that stage, getting my degree—it’s the peak of years of hustle, sweat, and a whole lot of heart. I’ll be standing tall, feeling like I just climbed a mountain because, in a way, I did. I’d be happy and nervous at the same time, just because of the uncertainty of the future.

Any final words of wisdom for incoming students?

To incoming students, I encourage you to embrace every opportunity for growth, exploration, and service that UConn has to offer. Approach each challenge with resilience and an open mind, knowing that every obstacle is an opportunity for learning and development. Also, seek mentorship, never lose sight of your passion and purpose, and network! network! network! You’d be surprised by the meaningful relationships you can get from that!