The USF Alumni Association awards the King O’Neal Scholar award to students completing their USF coursework with a 4.0 GPA. This year the USF College of Public Health recognizes Spring 2017 BSPH graduate Mary Alao for her academic excellence.
Born in Nigeria, Alao grew up in Miami, Fla. Before starting college she thought she would major in international relations because of her interest in global affairs, but at the same time she also had an interest in health. After speaking with her father who has an MPH, Alao found that public health was a diverse field that aligned with both of her interests.
“The global health and epidemiology concentrations perfectly capture my interests in international relations and health. Before I pursued public health as my major, I wouldn’t have really known what goes on in this field. But now I know that public health is a part of every aspect of our lives,” Alao said. “I also like how diverse the public health skillset is— it allows you to use a range of communication, research, analytical, and leadership skills.”
During her time at the COPH, Alao was involved with the Undergraduate Public Health Student Association (UPHSA) and TEDxUSF.
“This past year was really exciting because I had the opportunity to serve as the TEDxUSF board director. For the first time, a board of students planned and executed the entire event so I’m grateful that I got to lead this inaugural student board and spend a year working with over 30 amazing fellow students,” Alao said.
Alao was inspired by a few of the professors that she had while at USF who became her research mentors and supported her during her grad school applications.
“COPH instructors, Deidre Orriola and Alison Oberne, inspired me by how passionate they are about public health and their willingness to support students. Another great professor-turned-research mentor I’ve had was Dr. Marleah Dean Kruzel in the Department of Communications. All three of these professors were really kind to write me letters of recommendation for grad school, and I’m really grateful to have had their support at USF,” she said.
This fall, Alao continues her education pursuing an MSPH in global disease epidemiology and control.
“I’ve enjoyed my time at the COPH as an undergraduate student. All of my public health courses have been very interesting and I feel that the program definitely prepared me for grad school,” she said. “I’m more knowledgeable about public health and I think the program gets undergrads ready for grad school or the workforce no matter which one they pursue next.”
Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health