Ian McKeown grew up in Durham, NC, and when it was time for college, he consulted Loren Pope’s book Colleges That Change Lives. McKeown chose Allegheny College in Meadville, PA.
“I like to joke that Allegheny was the first chapter, so it saved me reading the rest,” says McKeown.
At Allegheny, he double-majored in global health and comparative literature. His senior project combined both disciplines to investigate whether introducing first-person narratives to people newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS increased their likelihood to engage with and stick to treatment regimens. He was also part of a student team doing the field work and follow-up for a community health needs assessment for Crawford County, where the college is located.
“It was just a really exciting thing to go from in-person interviews all the way through to completing the assessment, getting to give that information to the decision makers, and then watching them kind of shift how they were approaching health as a whole,” says McKeown.
After graduation, McKeown accepted a Peace Corps position as HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health director in Zambia. Then COVID intervened. Going to graduate school seemed the best next step and McKeown chose SPH.
“I picked Minnesota because of the professionalism, dedication, passion, and overall strength of the SPH community,” he says. “I wanted to be proud of the degree I earned, and proud of the place it came from.” McKeown joined the Epidemiology program, focusing on infectious diseases, specifically HPV and cervical cancer rates. He singles out Professor Shalini Kulasingam and Assistant Professor Kumi Smith for their particular support.
Receiving an SPH scholarship played a big role in McKeown’s success.
“Through its support, I was able to reorganize my financing and find a way to keep working on my degree,” says McKeown. “It quite literally changed my life and future.”
To make himself even more financially secure while earning his degree, McKeown worked full time with the non-profit Community Care of North Carolina on the state’s COVID response. He’d spend three weeks in North Carolina and one in Minnesota every month.
“I want to continue working on bettering a local community, a state community, a national community, a global community.”Ian Mckeown
McKeown says the arrangement was stressful, but also kept him grounded.
“In my classes, we learned about the inner workings of epidemiology as a study and as a field,” he says. “Then I’d clock into my job and be actually engaged in the application of epidemiological theory.”
McKeown has job offers and is excited to find out what’s in store for him now that he has graduated, to “see what doors open, then pick the best one,” as he says.
“Above all, I want to continue working on bettering a local community, a state community, a national community, a global community… that’s all I’m looking for in my career.”