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The Class of 2019


More than 300 students from the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health will graduate on Saturday, May 11. The convocation ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. at Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. in Tucson. A reception will follow at the Women’s Plaza Walkway. 

This event will be broadcast on Facebook Live:

Following are a few of the inspirational graduates who make up the Class of 2019:

Linda McCallister and her son Christian Lee.
Linda McCallister and her son Christian Lee.

Linda McCallister is a mom, veteran and military spouse, who will graduate this month from the UA with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. She is the first military affiliated student to graduate from the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health Online Undergraduate Program, having used the GI Bill to fund her education. 

Linda served in the U.S. Army for five years and moved around a lot. She completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri in 2008 and completed military occupational specialty training at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona. During her military career, Linda was awarded the MOS 35M for Human Intelligence Collector, responsible for information collection operations. She was stationed for a year at Fort Lewis in Washington before a more permanent move to Fort Stewart in Georgia. In 2010 Linda deployed to Mosul, Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. She received honorable discharge in 2012. 

After leaving the military, Linda moved back to Arizona with her husband, who is active duty Army, and assigned to Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista. She enrolled at the UA as a main campus transfer student. When the daily 90-minute commute became a too much of a burden, Linda transitioned to the online BS program in the fall 2017.

“I initially was an on-campus full-time student and commuted from Fort Huachuca to campus and didn't have time to work especially with my long commutes,” said Linda. “I commuted for a year and finally made the decision to switch to UA online for my final year. Since transitioning to online it has made home life easier to spend more time with my son since my husband is active duty Army.”

In her final semester, Linda completed an internship at the Fort Huachuca Preventative Medicine Office in Sierra Vista.

“What I did was a lot of screening for tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and postpartum education and vaccine promotion,” said Linda. “The benefits of the internship I honestly believe is that it does give you the hands on experience you do need when you start your career. The hands on experience is so worthwhile. I feel I have all the tools I need to start my career in public health.”

“The reason I chose public health is because I like the idea of being able to prevent diseases and educate people about health,” Linda added. 

Linda says her passion is to work with the military community. After graduation, she intends to seek employment at Fort Huachuca or Fort Gordon in Georgia where her family will be moving next year.

Omar Contreras, MPH, DrPH
Omar Contreras, MPH, DrPH

Omar Contreras is the first generation in his family to graduate from both college and graduate school. This month he will add a Doctorate of Public Health (DrPH) degree in public health policy and management to his academic career.

He is the recipient of the 2019 Dr. Maria Teresa Velez Marshall Dissertation Scholarship and University of Arizona Hispanic Alumni Outstanding Graduate Student Award.

“I owe this recognition and success not only to the training received at the College of Public Health, but to the leadership and mentorship of Dr. Cecilia Rosales,” said Omar. 

Dr. Rosales is interim associate dean of community engagement and outreach and associate dean of Phoenix programs at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

“The college has provided me with excellent opportunities to serve and advance the health of Hispanic/Latinx/Chicano communities and this award would not have been possible without these experiences.”

Omar received his Master of Public Health degree from the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health. 

Priscila Ruedas
Priscila Ruedas

Priscila Ruedas will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. She was eight years old when her family moved to the United States in 1998 from Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico and settled in Yuma, Arizona. She is the first in her family to graduate from college. 

In her speech at the 2018 Student Scholarship Luncheon, Priscila shared her journey to get to the UA. As the oldest child, Priscila had a great deal of responsibility. 

“I was lucky enough to learn English within one month of arriving in the U.S. but with that, came the responsibility of being the only member of the family that spoke the language. At eight years old, I was translating every day conversations at grocery store as well as legal conversations,” said Priscila. 

Priscila is the recipient of scholarships from the Hispanic Women’s Corporation and Chicanos Por La Casa. During her time at the UA, Priscila has been involved in many community outreach programs at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health including, “Juntos Por la Salud” Primary Prevention Mobile Unit in Tucson and volunteering for Casa Alitas, a program with Catholic Community Services of Tucson to help migrants, who have left their home countries seeking asylum. 

“I am not your typical college student. I am a migrant, first generation, non-traditional student who had an extra $50 two years ago and decided that maybe working the rest of my life in the restaurant industry is not what I wanted out of life.”

For her next steps, Priscila is considering graduate school and a dual degree in immigration law and a Master of Public Health. 

“Ultimately, I want to educate Latinx about their rights, and encourage those of us who can to vote and be aware politics and to vote and demand our rights,” said Priscila.

Magdiel Habila
Magdiel Habila

Magdiel Habila was born in Nigeria, and arrived in the United States a decade ago. Now Permanent resident, she will graduate with a Master of Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in epidemiology. 

She is a 2018 Cancer Epidemiology Education in Special Populations (CEESP) fellow, a research program that took her to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where she focused on breast cancer related research. As a graduate assistant, she served as hearing officer in the Student Accountability and Assistance program in the Dean of Student’s Office. She is a member of the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health Student Affairs Committee and served as co-chair of 2018 Social Justice Symposium. 

“I think that living in the United States with all the privileges that it has, it is easy to ignore all of the poverty and hardship that people experience on a daily basis. I chose public health because it is an avenue through which I can work to identify the problems in our society that cause people to experience suffering. Public health is also equips me with the tools that I would need to combat those issues and improve the quality of life for people that would otherwise be overlooked,” said Magdiel.

Magdiel will continue her education in the doctoral epidemiology program in the fall. 

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