COPH graduates USF’s youngest summer grad!

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McKenzie McIntyre, 18, receives bachelor’s in public health from the USF College of Public Health

Tampa native McKenzie McIntyre has been rocking the cap-and-gown look a lot this summer.

In May the 18-year-old graduated Hillsborough High School, where she was class valedictorian. Last week she took home a bachelor’s degree from the USF College of Public Health.

McIntyre originally thought she’d skate through high school, taking a few honors-level courses here and there. But she quickly became bored and decided to up her game, ultimately taking (and passing) 13 advanced placement classes and dual enrolling at HCC, and then USF, to help speed her academic progress.

McKenzie McIntyre at her Hillsborough High School graduation in May. (Photo courtesy of McIntyre)

“I had to learn my limit and not say yes to too many commitments,” she said. “When I’d get overwhelmed I’d make a cup of tea and take a breather.”

And McIntyre had a lot to get overwhelmed about.

Besides the demands of a very rigorous academic schedule, she was also a photographer for her high school’s yearbook, volunteered at Moffitt Cancer Center and is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which encourages a lot of community outreach and Bible study.

McIntyre, who originally set her sights on becoming a firefighter/paramedic, has her mother to thank for her career choice.

“I am 5 feet 2 inches and 100 pounds. My mother was concerned not just about the emotional impact the job might have on me, but also the physical stress. She suggested public health and I fell in love with the field.”

What McIntyre loves about public health is its breadth.

“I’ve been amazed at how expansive the field is, at how many different aspects of life it touches on. Being a firefighter/paramedic is a reactionary job. But preventing injuries or diseases before they happen, well, I thought I could have a bigger impact on people that way,” she said.

McIntyre first came to the USF campus—she also took some online classes to finish her degree—as a 16-year-old student. She says she was intimidated at first, but quickly fit in.

“I didn’t tell people I was dual enrolled, and I think most did not know how young I was. But when people did find out, I was generally met with compliments on my hard work,” she said.

McIntyre, third from right, learning how to operate a fire extinguisher with other members of USF’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). (Photo courtesy of USF CERT)

In true public health fashion, McIntyre says it is the service-oriented courses that made the most impact on her.

“I loved the homeland security class with Elizabeth Dunn, and I even got certified in community emergency response training. I also really enjoyed Public Health Innovation Studio, which had some service learning,” she said.

Next stop for McIntyre? She’ll be pursuing her master’s in applied biostatistics at the USF COPH in the fall, with hopes of one day working as a biostatistician in either the private sector or a university setting.

“I really appreciate the environment at USF,” said McIntyre. “The professors are all very kind and do their jobs well. I had such a good first experience, I thought I would stick with it.”

What’s probably not in the cards for McIntyre? A PhD. “Yeah,” she laughed, “that’s a lot of work.”

Alumni Fast Five
What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?
A veterinarian or a firefighter. I have a drive to help people and other living things, and that’s manifested into public health.

Where could we find you on the weekend?
Attending Bible study

What was the last book you read?
“The Warmth of Other Suns,” by Isabel Wilkerson. It’s about America’s migration and I’m reading it for a summer assignment.

What superpower would you like to have?
To time travel

What was your all-time favorite movie?
“Interstellar,” with Matthew McConaughey

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health