Activist Lab holds third annual boot camp

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The USF College of Public Health’s (COPH) Activist Lab held its third annual boot camp Friday, January 29. The 2021 event, held virtually, focused on advocacy and pandemics, particularly COVID-19. 

“These exciting boot camps allow participants to not only learn about advocacy and policy changes, but to focus on particular public health issues and change,” said Dr. Karen Liller, director of the Activist Lab and a COPH professor. “The boot camps are true hands-on experiences. Participants work in groups to create issue papers for the legislators and/or policymakers that will help improve the public’s health.”

The COPH’s Activist Lab provides seminars, webinars and other educational opportunities for faculty and students—both undergraduate and graduate—to learn public health advocacy skills and competencies.

The recent boot camp, “It Is a Whole New World: Advocacy and Pandemics,” was attended by about 120 students, participants and speakers.

 “The fact that the event was virtual allowed us to exceed our attendance expectations and bring various stakeholders to the table,” explained Rolando Trejos Saucedo, an Activist Lab student advisory board member. “This provided a unique platform to reflect on our roles as community members and public health professionals. Attending this event was an excellent opportunity to gain an interdisciplinary perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic and analyze how to advocate as individuals, and as a community, for change.”

Highlights included a question-and-answer session about COVID-19 with medical, public health, mental health and domestic violence experts and a presentation by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor on the importance of advocacy. Castor also spoke about her experiences at the Capitol during the recent rioting.

Attendees at a 2020 boot camp breakout session. (Photo, taken pre-COVID-19, courtesy of the Activist Lab)

“All the speakers in all the sessions did an excellent job and I could not be more pleased,” said Liller. “Although this year we were in a virtual format for the first time, the technology worked very well, thanks to Carlos Montoya and my student advisory board, and the breakout sessions continued to be very helpful in allowing participants to practice writing advocacy issue briefs that were critiqued by a legislative/advocacy panel of experts.”

2021 Activist Lab resources and a video are available to access.

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health