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Q&A with Student Commencement Speaker Zach Jacobs

Zach Jacobs, commencement speaker 2017Undergraduate Zach Jacobs has made the most of his Temple experience and grown into a perfect example of what public health education can be. From his advocacy for incarcerated people to his innovative work in the lab, the Public Health major has gained a profound and comprehensive understanding of how systems and communities affect individuals, and how individuals can make a difference in the lives of many. 


What brought you to Temple?
I grew up in the Philadelphia area and wanted to go to a school that was affordable but still offered me a quality education. I felt like Temple offered me the opportunity to leave my suburban bubble and explore different interests.

How did you become interested in public health?
I chose this major because I wanted to work to reform our social welfare institutions and make an impact at the population level.

Do you remember any moment in your program when you knew you were in the right place?
It really hit me that I made the correct decision when I began applying for internships my senior year. I was a little dismayed during my first few years here because I was not passionate about many of the classes. But by the time I began looking past Temple I realized how well the school had set me up for success. I hadn’t realized how many opportunities I was qualified for until I started applying the knowledge my professors instilled in me.

What do you appreciate about being in the College of Public Health?
The professors really encourage you to explore a variety of fields. What you learn during your time in CPH makes graduation a lot less stressful.

What stands out from your time at Temple?
I have many fond memories from my time as a Temple undergraduate. My internship this spring is with Nationalities Service Center, an agency that resettles refugees in Philadelphia. CPH set up this internship for me and it allowed me to better define what I am passionate about. In regards to Temple events, my favorite was the Ta-Nehisi Coates speech in fall 2016.

How will you use your public health degree? What’s next for you?
I plan to use my degree to improve the lives of people in this country and in the world’s most vulnerable populations. After graduation, I hope to work as a researcher studying health disparities. Then, in two years or so, my plan is to attend law school and work in civil rights, immigration, and mass incarceration reform.

Congratulations on being chosen as the commencement speaker! What can we expect to hear from you at commencement?
Thank you. In my commencement speech, I speak about the fact that we as college graduates are more fortunate than we realize. During this politically polarizing time, I believe we have a moral obligation to use our degrees for good. I want to encourage my fellow students to critically analyze problems and make decisions that will benefit humanity.


Learn more about Temple's programs in Public Health and Environmental Health

Find out what's happening during CPH Commencement Week.

Posted:  May 9, 2017