As the eighth oldest institution for higher learning in the United States, Rutgers is celebrating its 250th anniversary on November 10, 2016. To celebrate this monumental milestone, I Am Rutgers will be featuring Rutgers’ most involved and accomplished students in a new series, “250 for 250.” This year-long series will serve as a reflection of Rutgers’ diverse student body and status as a premier national research university.
Rutgers University gives students the opportunity to step into a diverse culture on every campus, class, and organization. Students are the decision makers of what they want to advocate for and how that can be a part of their professional career after college. In this article of the 250 series, we dive into the field of Public Health, Anthropology, Sexuality, and Community through a Rutgers student’s perspective.
Patrice Williams is a fourth year Douglass woman majoring in Cultural Anthropology and Public Health through the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. She is also completing a certificate in Global Health Leadership through the Women’s and Gender Studies department.
Currently, Patrice is involved in advocating for sexual health in H.O.P.E. (Health, Outreach, Promotion and Education) through leading workshops in sexual health and health care that are offered at Rutgers. She is an advocate for VPVA (Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance) and serves as a Site Leader with RU Alternative Breaks. Patrice is also a Planned Parenthood Youth Rising Fellow, where she helps organize events with other organizations that aim to support and educate students on issues of Reproductive Justice and communities of color. Patrice has also worked as an Aresty Research Assistant in alternative medicine for anthropology with Dr. Dorothy Hodgson and consequently acted on that knowledge to become a FIGS instructor for anthropology.
One of Patrice’s biggest achievements was landing an RRASC internship at the Doula Project in New York City. Doula work has sparked her research interests and her interests in pro-choice work with pregnant people. She was able to participate in planning and research for Doula.
My goals are largely centered around reproductive justice on a community and individual level. So far this work had introduced me to amazing people, nuances of linguistic interactions from speaking to touching and realities about the reproductive justice movement.”
One of the most difficult challenges Patrice has had to endure was getting accustomed to Rutgers college courses.
My first semester at Rutgers was rocky. I was in engineering and to keep it short, it wasn’t for me. There were so many factors against me that I know other Rutgers students and specifically students of color, face and overcome. I too, overcame that and have been able to stay in school, which isn’t a reality for everyone. Now, I continually struggle with the same anxieties and balance of school and non-academic experiences, but somehow, for now, it’s working.”
Patrice’s internship in the RRASC in New York has helped her want to pursue a similar career and helped her realize the various amount of helpful resources that are offered through academic institutions. Her Youth Rising fellowship has helped her understand collaboration and different types of activist organizing.
Everything I do surrounds bodily autonomy, reproductive justice, combating systemic and racial oppression, and understanding the power of language, which has the ability to shape how we make and create lived realities, policies, spaces, and knowledge. I think all of these passions spur from negative interactions in healthcare settings and interpersonal interactions. For me, the attention to linguistics and language, the doula work, organizing and academia all come together and all intersect other justice work. If you interact with me- you’d probably say I talk a lot about racial oppression and cultural appropriation, as well as sexual health and destigmatizing body parts.”
Patrice has always lived near Rutgers and her parents graduated here as well. She has participated in AG field day almost every year and has taken French horn lessons from graduate students. She has learned to swim in the College Avenue gym pool. She has grown up visiting Rutgers, and so it made sense to study here as well.
At first, Patrice found it a bit difficult making friends during her first year, but once she had decided on her major, she started finding people that were supportive and became her friends.
I admire my friends and am motivated by them. So all of my moments with them have been my favorite. I think what I’ve found through all of the experiences I’ve had is that I really value people. That shows in my methodology for research, my choice of major, my work aspirations (at least I think it does) and in my friendships. I value interaction even if it scares me or makes me anxious or uncomfortable.”
As a Rutgers student, Patrice has a lot of plans and lists she wants to complete during her time here. She hopes to take a class on grant writing, learn Spanish, and complete a senior thesis. She would like to continue to travel and organize and create events for students of color that celebrate them.
In about 5 or 10 years I hope to have started a dual master’s degree to be a physician’s assistant or Midwife with a master’s in public health. I also hope that I will be able to continue advocacy work, organizing and possibly policy work.”