A new semester is like a voyage, and setting sail on the first day is filled with the anticipation of what lies in the sea ahead. While every voyage has its ebbs and flows, setting sail with a crewmate with whom you have a lifelong, beloved bond brings calm and reassurance to the storms that may have to be weathered throughout the semester.
Calm, reassurance, and the depth of their bond on their voyage is clear when meeting sisters and students in the Rutgers School of Public Health: Arnina and Betia Zeng.
Arnina, the older of the two, is pursuing her Master of Public Health degree in public health nutrition, and Betia is in the Accelerated Bachelor of Science/Master of Public Health degree program. Not only are they both pursuing the same degree, but they are also in the same Introduction to Biostatistics course which has presented them the opportunity to support each other in ways that go beyond their contemporaries. “We decided to take this course together because I can lean on Betia’s strength in biostatics,” Arnina said when asked about being in class with her sister. “It’s really helpful to study together, ask each other questions, and support each other in and outside of the classroom.”
“I really didn’t know anyone in graduate classes.” This is a familiar refrain for many graduate students but, particularly, new students like Betia. She went on to say, “Having someone that I know in class, someone to pick me up to go to class, and even go grocery shopping after class with—it is more than just academic support.”
As an Accelerated Bachelor of Science/Master of Public Health degree program student, Betia said that she has really enjoyed having graduate classes that are in-depth in the subject matters that she is interested in. She is also able to apply what she is learning in the program directly to her job as Public Health Program Specialist, which Arnina helped her land. She ultimately wants to conduct epidemiology research or work as a health research analyst.
Arnina has had the opportunity to apply what she is learning in the Master of Public Health program to her profession as well. Arnina is currently a community health worker in Jersey City, a 21st Century Scholar, and a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Public Health Scholarship recipient.
The Rutgers School of Public Health’s highly competitive 21st Century Scholarship is awarded to outstanding individuals who are pursuing a Master of Public Health degree. 21st Century Scholars are assigned a mentor who they meet regularly to receive guidance and support in navigating their degree program. Arnina said that having a mentor as a 21st Century Scholar has been instrumental in her success thus far in the program.
The HRSA Public Health Scholarship Program at the Rutgers School of Public Health is supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and recognizes high achieving individuals. The HRSA scholarship program seeks to increase the capacity of public health systems to meet the core public health functions, the Ten Essential Public Health Services, and decrease public health inequities and health disparities.
Regarding these scholarships, Arnina’s advice to other students is to not be deterred. “Even if you are unsure, take advantage of everything you see and go for it.” Arnina ultimately wants work in government as a project manager for nutrition programming and interventions for reducing chronic disease.
Arnina and Betia both reflect on what it means to have family in class and being members of the Rutgers School of Public Health. “It has taught both of us how to lean on each other’s strengths and the strengths of those around us” Arnina said, “It has helped us to grow together as sisters and grow academically and professionally.” Betia echoed by saying, “Having a sibling in the same class as me has taught me how important it is to have a support network.”
The Zeng sisters are just on verge of their burgeoning careers, and with the support of each other and the Rutgers School of Public Health, they will certainly weather any storm and have smooth sailing on the seas of success.