Maggy Hovden graduated in Spring 2022 with a BA in Global Health Studies, a BA in Spanish, and a minor in Latina/o/x Studies. She discusses how she discovered Global Health Studies, her work now with nonprofit organization Maggie's Place, and how to find opportunities that nurture your passions.
Q&A with Maggy Hovden
Was Global Health Studies your original major? If not, what caused you to consider Global Health Studies?
My original major was Spanish, and I was on the pre-law track when I arrived at UI! I was looking to complement my Spanish with another major, so I chose International Relations as I was, and still am, passionate about learning about the world around me. About halfway into the fall semester of my first year, my Rhetoric professor assigned my class to read Walkable City by Jeff Speck. The book turned my world upside down. I had always been interested in health but did not think I could pursue a career in it unless I was a nurse or a doctor. When I read this book, there was a specific story I highlighted that still sticks with me to this day: In short, it described the importance of focusing on a person’s-built environment rather than their remote disease risks. Is an elderly woman who must walk a mile carrying heavy grocery bags in 100-degree weather responsible for dying from heat stroke, or is it the city’s leaders’ responsibility for the lack of access to public transportation, lack of sidewalks, and not enough grocery stores within a reasonable walking distance in neighborhoods?
This new perspective I gained made me quickly schedule a meeting with my Academic Advisor to begin applying to the College of Public Health. She suggested I research the Global Health Studies program instead since it was a part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences! GHS (Global Health Studies) is an interdisciplinary major, meaning that I got to take courses in anthropology, religion, science, gender studies, and more. The world is far too complex to view from just one area of study.
Did you partake in research, an internship, or anything outside the Global Health Studies requirements? If so, how did that prepare you for your job now?
I was heavily involved on campus throughout my undergraduate experience in Iowa. I was a Certified Peer Educator at the Women’s Resource and Action Center for 3 years where I facilitated violence prevention training for various student groups across campus. I was also an Orientation Leader during the summer of 2020, and I volunteered with Orientation Services, the UI Mobile Clinic, UI Conversation Center, and Upstream Clinic, and was a member of the Lutheran Campus Ministry. Additionally, I was an Office Assistant in the Division of Interdisciplinary Programs and spent a lot of time crafting these GHS newsletters, so I am so grateful for the chance to be featured in one as an alumna of the program now!
Off-campus, I chose to work at a Lutheran camp in southern Colorado as a Travel Director in the summer of 2021. After I graduated, I received a summer internship with the Centers for Disease Control Undergraduate Public Health Scholars program where I spent 8 weeks (about 2 months) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, interning at the Helpline Center. There, I shadowed crisis counselors, got to be a part of the 988 launches, and conducted program evaluations for the Helpline Center’s Network of Care. All these opportunities led me to where I am now and shaped me into the leader I am today.
“In college, it is easy to get caught up in all the experiences that you think you ‘should’ do and what other people partake in. Through my experiences, I have learned that the jobs I accepted and the volunteer engagements I was a part of were not always perfectly aligned with my career goals, but they all positively impacted my personal growth, self-confidence, connections, and passions. My lived experience has shown me that what you feel called will not always be easy and it will not always make sense to others, and that is OK. Listen to your own voice and do not shrug off the nudge; your intuition is your greatest strength.”
What were your after-graduation plans, and did they work out?
I pursued a year-long AmeriCorps service term in Phoenix, Arizona, at a non-profit organization, Maggie’s Place. I applied for this position in November of my senior year and was offered a spot a month later! I moved in late July and have been living in a maternity home with 7 pregnant and parenting women who previously experienced homelessness. In my role, I serve as the Programs Coordinator in which I plan and implement mandatory weekly Community Nights and ensure all moms complete our program requirements. Aside from that, my day-to-day job is to show up as an emotional support person for these women, and work with them to achieve their goals while they adjust to motherhood. I also advocate for them during prenatal appointments, childbirth, and court hearings. This job is a rare find and it is the most fulfilling work I have ever done in my life.
What has led you to your position or company? How did you find out about the opportunity?
I started reading books about pregnancy, childbirth, and infertility when I was 8 years old. I had a collection of 13 baby dolls that I would take care of throughout my childhood. My favorite part about growing up on a farm was helping my dad deliver baby calves every spring. These firsthand experiences are also reasons as to why majoring in GHS was the right move for me: I was able to take several classes about maternal and child health, as well as research and talk with professors about specific women’s health issues that I was passionate about.
During the fall semester of my junior year, I attended a virtual Humanities/Social Sciences internship fair that Iowa hosted. It was there that I met with a recruiter from Maggie’s Place. At first, I thought I wanted to complete a summer term at Maggie’s Place; but, after thinking about all that I wanted to gain from this deeply immersive experience, I decided a year-long service term was what I truly desired.
Within your field, what do you suggest to someone who is looking to go into a similar position to yours?
Attend as many career/internship fairs in Iowa as you can and start early! Speaking with recruiters will help you understand different organizations’ values and what kind of work interests you. During my undergraduate experience, I conducted many informational interviews with people working in fields I was interested in, such as perinatal social workers and nurse-midwives at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and professors at UI who conducted research in the areas I could see myself contributing to in the future. For me, having a network of people with similar interests and goals acted as sustainable support all through college. Even today, as I work on graduate school applications, I am not afraid of sending a message to a random person whose work inspires me or reaching out to a friend of a friend to hear their stories and ask questions about how they got to where they are now.
If you could change something from your journey through college to now, what would you change, and why?
I can wholeheartedly say that I am proud of every opportunity I decided to pursue and all the connections I made throughout college. If I could change anything, I would have liked to work on having more self-confidence and practicing good self-care earlier in my journey as an undergraduate. In my line of work now, it is a part of the job to take care of myself to not reach burnout. I have now found what works best for me to release stress, but while in college it was the standard to not take care of myself. If you realize how necessary rest is as a college student, you will set yourself up for success post-graduation. I would have also liked to utilize on-campus counseling resources sooner, and I highly recommend asking for help before you need it! Vulnerability is courageous and you deserve to feel good about yourself and your future during these formative years!
“I would also tell my younger self that while college will be some of the best years of your life, they are not the only good years, and the world truly is your oyster after graduation!”