2017 - 2018

MPH Student Ambassadors

Kristina Jiles, PhD/MPH ('17) - Public Health Education

My name is Kristina Jiles and I am from Riverdale, Maryland. I am a dual-degree Doctor of Philosophy and Masters of Public Health student at Virginia Tech. My research consists of collaborating with Virginia Cooperative Extension to develop and evaluate implementation and control systems for the CDC's National Diabetes Prevention Program across the state of Virginia. Additional research projects include implementation and evaluation of diabetes prevention and management, obesity prevention and management, and nutrition related activities. 

Kristina Jiles

In the future, I hope to work for the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement and to evaluate evidence-based programs within health disparate communities related to diabetes and obesity in both children and adults. I have received a Master of Science degree in Biology from Hampton University in 2014 and received my Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, with a concentration in Pre-Medicine, from Elizabeth City State University in 2012.

I chose the VT MPH program because I wanted to learn different approaches to implementing health education interventions and programs. I believed that this program would not only enhance my knowledge of health promotional strategies, but also assist me in the application of promoting health projects to address and to prevent health issues/risks within real-world settings. This program assisted me in obtaining more insight into health behavior and applying those theories to intervention designs to help determine why individuals endure in certain behaviors. Moreover, the program has heightened my learning about evaluative tools used for interventions to enhance fidelity and valid and reliable methods to yield more evidence-based interventions.

I wanted to be a student ambassador I want to be able to provide current and prospective students insight into the health education realm of public health and for students to experience the numerous opportunities within MPH program. I believe that a student ambassador entails being dedicated to the students and providing them the resources needed to receive the best experience possible working in public health. I want to be able to motivate, encourage, and be a positive role model for students with the ultimate goal of them being successful in the MPH program. 


Mariah Malachi, MPH ('18) - Public Health Education

My name is Mariah Malachi and I am a first year student following the Health Education track in the Master of Public Health Program at Virginia Tech. I am from Winchester Virginia, but I consider Blacksburg to be home away from home. The beautiful campus, academic prestige, and my love of the VT Hokies all pushed me to stay at Virginia Tech to pursue Public Health after I graduated last Spring from VT with my B.S. in Sociology. In the future, I hope to pursue a second Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy and so the MPH program will help me to better understand the non-clinical aspects of health professions. I hope to incorporate the skills that I obtain from this program into my impending profession as an Occupational Therapist in the future. I am honored to have the position as an ambassador for the MPH program at VT. As an ambassador I hope to assist in the development of a tightknit community of MPH students and to serve as a leader for forthcoming students. I look forward to serving as an ambassador for the program!

Mariah Malachi

Laura Parkhurst, DVM/MPH ('20) - Infectious Disease

I completed dual undergraduate degrees in Wildlife Science and Applied Biology from Virginia Tech in 2005 and 2006, respectively. After graduation, I entered the workforce and spent the next 9 years as an environmental consultant for an international engineering firm. During that time, I was selected to be a student in the inaugural cohort of the Executive Masters of Natural Resources program offered through the college of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech. While in the program, I completed an international residency project which emphasized integrating ourselves into the local communities and becoming leaders in and teachers of global sustainability. In 2015, I was accepted into the DVM program at VMCVM and soon after also became a student in the MPH program. I decided to pursue the dual DVM/MPH programs because the course material in both curriculums will prove to be extremely beneficial in my future career as a veterinary professional.

Laura Parkhurst

Upon graduation from the DVM/MPH program, I plan to assist in low-cost spay/neuter/vaccine clinics in underserved areas in both the United States and abroad. These areas are often in need of not only veterinary medical care, but also educational programs that assist the population in recognizing, treating, and preventing zoonotic infectious diseases. I also plan to focus on conservation medicine which highlights the various obstacles that wildlife species face due to common diseases associated with domestic species and the human-animal conflict around encroachment zones. My experiences in the MPH program will prepare me to be able to successfully tackle these obstacles head-on while working for a non-profit organization such as the Humane Society and the David Sheldrich Wildlife Trust.

I became ambassador MPH program because I feel that I bring a unique perspective to the ambassador program as a non-traditional student. Also, since I am a dual degree student in the DVM program which gives me an insider’s perspective in the extra course load and time commitment that is necessary to be successful in both programs. In addition, as a long-time resident of the NRV and alumni of VT-CNRE, I have a vested interest in promoting the MPH program to prospective students and a strong commitment to the success of programs offered through VT.


Mari Shelton, MPH ('18) - Infectious Disease & Public Health Education

My name is Mari Shelton, and I am currently a first-year MPH graduate student specializing in both the Infectious Diseases and Public Health Education tracks. I completed my undergraduate degree here at Virginia Tech as well, studying Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, with a concentration in Exercise Health Promotion. My previous time here played a huge part in why I came back for my MPH: once I figured out what graduate program was meant for me, I knew I had to return to Virginia Tech because I completely loved my undergraduate time, and couldn’t imagine going anywhere else!

Mari Shelton

I became interested in public health after spending two years working in a pediatrics clinic in Northern Virginia. It was here where I witnessed a wide range of health disparities within the community, and a lack of policy/advocacy for specific populations and health conditions. I was inspired to focus my educational and professional goals on this area of public health, and I hope to one day work on health policy, specifically in women and children’s health (human trafficking, domestic abuse, STDs, and maternal health). I wanted to become an MPH student ambassador because when I was considering graduate schools, I wasn’t sure what program would allow me to combine my goals with a structured curriculum. Being an ambassador will allow me to reach out to prospective students who might also fall in that gray area, develop relations with other programs and communities, and represent Virginia Tech in the best way possible.


Previous MPH Student Ambassadors

After four amazing years as a Ram, Andrew graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor in biology and a minor in chemistry. Having spent 22 years in Richmond, he decided that it was time to move somewhere new. He has always had a passion for health and education, so he started looking into MPH programs around the nation. Andrew was immediately drawn to Virginia Tech’s MPH program for a number of reasons. He thought that the MPH faculty were very approachable, the school’s motto of Ut Prosim really resonated well with him, and he appreciated the beauty of Virginia Tech’s campus along with its friendly and welcoming student body. He also was drawn to the graduate certificate that the graduate school offered in global planning and international development studies since Andrew was mainly focused on global health concerns.

Andrew Riddle

Because of Andrew’s love for the MPH program (and Virginia Tech as a whole), he was accepted as one of our ambassadors. Andrew is highly involved on campus and even lives on campus where he works, so he is happy to answer any questions you may have about graduate life at Virginia Tech. Andrew will be graduating from the program this upcoming May. He will then have a month of relaxation with family and friends before he departs for Peace Corps Belize. Andrew will spend a little over two years living and working in remote villages within Belize, where he will help out their local communities as a community health educator. After his two years of service, he hopes to come back to the states and work for the federal government on international development issues. 

I am Zana Shabani from Kosovo. Kosovo is a newly independent country in Easter Europe. I am a second year MPH student at Virginia Tech, graduating May 2017, with a concentration in Public Health Education.  I completed my bachelor/master’s degree in pharmacy in Kosovo and I am a licensed pharmacist there. Working as a pharmacist in a developing country is very difficult and public health issues such as antibiotic resistance are major problems. This is particularly what brought me to the field of public health, in addition to the lack of expertise in public health in my country.  I chose Virginia Tech through the scholarship program from my country called transformational leadership and it has been a great experience for me as an international student. Becoming a student ambassador is important since I like to talk about and promote public health as well as bring a different experience to the program and learn from this opportunity myself.  In the future, I want to promote public health in developing countries and increase awareness about different health issues that affect developing countries.

Zana Shabani