Instead of a direct path to the study of public health, Jessica Kulak selected a more circuitous route. She had completed her undergraduate studies in psychology and health science, and then opted for a career as a school counselor for several years. “While I enjoyed it, I realized I missed the work I had done in health promotion, and made the decision to return to school for a master’s degree in public health,” said Kulak.
“UB had the perfect mix that catered to my professional goals and personal needs—a renowned school of public health, great connections with research faculty at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, a great price tag compared to other universities, and it wouldn’t require me to uproot my life and move far away,” she said.
While in the program, Kulak worked as a research assistant for faculty in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior in the area of tobacco control, and participated in many activities in and out of the classroom.
Kulak advises current and prospective students to consider the numerous educational opportunities available. “Joining clubs and taking part in other School of Public Health and Health Professions’ activities has really given me some of the best experiences here,” she said. “Some of my favorites are the ‘brown bag seminars,’ fireplace chats with professionals in the field, MMWR club meetings, being involved with the Global Health Initiative, and my study abroad program in Brazil.”
Kulak spent three weeks in Brazil to learn about the country’s healthcare system. “We worked with UNIPAC, their university system, and spent most of our time doing site visits of hospitals, clinics, community programs, etc., in the southeastern part of the country,” she said. “We also attended lectures and seminars hosted by UNIPAC. I learned a lot about the culture and history of Brazil, and even picked up a fair amount of Portuguese during our short time there!”
Now pursuing a PhD in community health and health behavior, Kulak said she enjoys the strong faculty mentoring within the program. "We get to work with faculty outside of classes to develop our own research interests, and that really starts from day one, which has been great."