Dear Colleagues,

As I approach my first year as your associate dean of practice, the time seems right to summarize where we’ve been, as a community of practice, and where we’re going. I think we have exhausted the supply of adjectives describing the last 12-plus months, all of which are, somehow, accurate. We have the next several decades to examine the bad and ugly aspects of this pandemic year, so for the sake of brevity (and emotional health), I’ll focus here on the Activist Lab’s portion of our practice ecosystem.

Last June, I offered my personal journey back to SPH and my vision of the Activist Lab’s role in our larger practice portfolio. Last summer, you helped launch our program review with your robust response to the Activist Lab Pulse Survey, sharing your ideas and hopes, and lending clear-eyed perspectives on the Lab’s strengths and challenges. November’s Talking Circles allowed you, alumni, and community partners to join us in deeper explorations of the way forward. Thank you all for your thoughtful insight and generous support. I am grateful for your honesty, wisdom, and commitment to our shared success.

The Activist Lab team spent significant time unpacking and integrating your feedback. And after months of introspection and rigorous strategic thinking, the Activist Lab redefined its mission, vision, and values, planting our flag with a new team and a clear understanding of who we are and why we are here. Next, we turned our attention to operationalizing our strategic plan – translating our purpose into action in the form of programmatic activities.

The Activist Lab’s job is to harness the resources of the school and community to catalyze students’ bold public health practice. Engagement in advocacy, activism, and social justice is the foundation of our work. On this foundation stands three pillars of core programmatic activities charging students to: Build a Just Community; Be Change Agents, and Take a Stand.

Here’s what that means:

Build a Just Community – From the Inside, Out

The Activist Lab centers its work in the margins of society. Justice is a core value of public health. So, we mean to make the practice of treating all people with dignity and respect a tenant of every aspect of our work – in the classroom, in the conference room, in the hallway, in the world. Our practice has to take an inside-out approach. The starting place is building our capacity as a school to call people in, and challenge concepts, not individuals. This looks like learning from the experience of students in the classroom, building opportunities to convene and guide faculty and staff in refining teaching, and practicing hard conversations across our community. As we learn and grow in our confidence, we extend our scope out into the world, step by step. There is no finish line in building just communities, on our campus or in the world, but we can and must make progress. The Healthy Conversations initiative is an example of this Build a Just Community pillar.

Be a Change Agent – Skilling-Up for a Better Tomorrow

Students work with the Activist Lab to gain the knowledge and real-world experience they need to engage their passion and face each injustice as an opportunity to confront the systems that created it. Proximity is powerfully important in learning the skills of community engagement. Students will directly engage community leaders and resident representatives via a spectrum of ever-evolving programing that increases opportunities to sharpen an expanding circle of core competencies and equity skill sets. Our Impact Grants (previously known as Activist Bucks) and Activist Fellowships are examples of this Be a Change Agent pillar.

Take a Stand – Joining Local and Global Advocates

Change and neutrality are mutually exclusive. The social, economic, and environmental conditions that shape health are themselves shaped by often hotly contested political debates, making our commitment to supporting local, national, and global advocacy efforts all the more important. Students will support and amplify the voices of those who are fighting for change. These organizations and individuals are experts in community organizing, communications strategies, building coalitions, and so much more in order to challenge injustice and create the conditions for all to be healthy and well. The opportunity to join local, national, and global movements provides the opportunity to learn from and contribute to real-world change.

Over the Spring 2021 semester, a burgeoning student-led advocacy committee formed with the intent of directing student energy and resources to impact social change across the globe. Conversations have included petition drives to policy initiatives, marches, and demonstrations. This group will continue to evolve over the summer with the hope of launching into action in the fall. Our Vaccine Equity Now! discussion and advocacy opportunity is an example of this Take a Stand pillar.

So, this is what our new Activist Lab looks like. Thank you for helping us build it! To learn more, check out the Activist Lab website. Remember, this is your Activist Lab – mi laboratorio es tu laboratorio. We are in this together with a commitment to shared success. Our community is one in which we research, teach, and practice as a collaborative that nurtures and sustains the indivisible parts of the whole.

I look forward to working with you on the road ahead.

Kind regards,


Craig S. Andrade, RN, MPH, DrPH
Associate Dean for Practice/Activist Lab Director

View all announcements