"I was seeking literacy and understanding and exploration of healthcare as a human right…I wanted to be able to feel confident in speaking to others about human rights, and I found this program, and it was the absolute perfect fit," says Christina Vanoverbeke, Human Rights Practice M.A. candidate and Director, Philanthropy Strategic Communications at CommonSpirit Health.
Christina grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, where she learned "the hard way" about the importance of access to healthcare. The Youngstown economy crashed following "Black Monday," September 19, 1977, when some 5,000 workers at a local steel manufacturer, Youngstown Sheet, and Tube, were abruptly laid off. Attempts to revive the steel industry failed, and other employers left or filed for bankruptcy. Christina said fresh food and other necessities for a healthy life were not always available. She has not forgotten the frustration of that difficult time.
Christina studied journalism and communications at Youngstown State University, hoping to be a reporter, but even as she completed the undergraduate degree in 2002, the newspaper companies began to disappear. She says, "Most of my friends were going into PR, but I was idealistic and not ready to go work for an agency." A local healthcare foundation eventually hired Christina, and she began writing copy for websites and newsletters.
She has continued to progress in non-profit healthcare in communication and development for the past 20 years.
Christina wanted to understand the legal and social mechanisms protecting human rights and searched for an online degree program that would not interrupt her full-time job at CommonSpirit Health. She was happy to find the Human Rights Practice program and reports that working with online peers to solve human rights problems has been "kind of magical."
Christina's capstone project combines her experience with communication, fundraising, and human rights. She is designing philanthropic initiatives for an NGO co-located in Spain and Ghana called Cehdhaghana.org.