Laura Eckles graduated from the University of Iowa College of Public Health in 2019 with a BA in public health. Learn more about how she discovered public health and how she uses her education in her current job.
What is your hometown and state?
My family moved around quite a bit growing up (over 15 times), so I always joked that I was in a military family (I was not). I did graduate from Solon High School, though, so I would say Solon, Iowa.
What was your degree? Any minor or certificates?
I was honored to be a part of the first cohort of undergraduates to graduate from the College of Public Health with my Bachelor of Arts degree.
What is your current job title, employer, and city/state?
City Planner I, City of Mount Vernon, Iowa.
What made you choose a career in public health, or how did you find yourself on this career path?
I happened to stumble upon this schooling and career path. I initially went to school at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and I was not planning on attending a university; but, after exploring my other options, I applied to become a Hawkeye! My first declared major at the university was a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, but I had signed up for an introductory course in public health. I will never forget that class and the instructor, Dr. Daniel-Ulloa, since it propelled me into the public health sector. I always knew I wanted to help others, and this course just confirmed that instead of focusing on treatment, I wanted to help prevent, mitigate, and promote overall health and well-being.
How do you apply your public health education in your job?
This career path has multiple similarities to other jobs in public health. My role in the planning and zoning department aids in preventing adverse impacts on not only the built environment but the community as a whole. I am not just working in the present, but I am also looking into the future at what can be done to protect and promote the citizens and visitors of the city.
What does an average day look like in your job?
I honestly do not have an average day, which is really a perk of this career. I communicate with citizens throughout the day who usually have unique questions and requests. It is great being so involved in the public because you never know what the day will bring.
What excites you about your job?
I love that I can make a positive impact on the community of Mount Vernon, Iowa, whether that be through listening to an individual’s story and concerns, reviewing new project development, or creating/amending legislative language — all are significant!
What was your favorite public health class and why?
I cannot pick just one… my favorite classes included Global Road Safety, Injury and Violence Prevention, and Fundamentals in Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response. The professors taught me so much and really influenced the course of my studies and career.
What do you value most from your time at Iowa?
I valued being enabled by the college to try new experiences. I am sure I could curate a prolonged list of recommendations, but if I dwindle it down to two recommendations for all new students and visitors, it would be to 1) Attend a concert at Hancher Auditorium (bonus points if you have never heard of the performing artist, and they become one of your new favorites), and 2) Attend the guest lectures!