Brittany Puran had talked about becoming a doctor since she was little. After starting her education to become a pediatric oncologist, she felt the emotional weight of that career and knew it wasn’t a good fit. Yet that realization brought a mix of anxiety and fear.
“I was so confused,” she recalls. “I wanted to transfer. I just didn’t even want to be in college anymore.”
An encounter with a SPEA advisor changed that.
“He told me that just because I had said I wanted to be a doctor didn’t mean that was my path,” Puran says. “That was really hard for me to accept. But he helped me understand that it was okay that I wasn’t going to be what I always said I would be. He showed me there were other ways to help kids.”
One of those ways, her advisor told her, was through nonprofit work. Puran had never considered that option, but leapt at the opportunity and enrolled in SPEA’s Civic Leadership major, focusing on nonprofit and community leadership.
The Civic Leadership major provides the interdisciplinary skills students need to create positive change in their communities. It teaches them how to work in a public service role by becoming a leader in the public, private, or nonprofit sector.
While her SPEA courses laid a foundation for understanding how these sectors interact, a study abroad trip with SPEA Abroad helped her connect it to her passion for child well-being. She partnered with German and Italian students to study public and private sector economic development in other countries.
“Our project focused on child labor in Bangladesh,” she says. “My team examined how to change those working conditions by evaluating the country’s economy and finding different sustainable opportunities for new economic development.”
As she gained more experience, Puran developed a better picture of what a new future could look like for her. SPEA advisors helped her link her love of leadership with solving health-related problems and connected her with an internship at the Bowen Center for Health Workforce Research and Policy.
Puran now writes fact sheets about how health care and policy intersect and the impact on workers in the healthcare industry. She says that opportunity compliments the life-changing experiences and foundation-forming education that SPEA provides its students.
“You leave SPEA as a well-rounded student with an incredibly diverse degree that doesn’t limit you the way other degrees can,” she says. “No matter what I decide to do in life, I know my SPEA degree will be a valuable asset.”
Puran hopes to combine her interests by pursing a health-related master’s degree and potentially work for an international health-related nonprofit that focuses on vulnerable populations. But she credits the staff and faculty at SPEA with helping her pick up the pieces and create a new vision for her future.
“I am really thankful my advisor convinced me that it was okay to follow a different path,” Puran says. “Everything I’ve done and all of my opportunities have all been thanks to SPEA. It’s the greatest program I could ever have asked for.”