Alumni Profile: Jennica Allen
Jennica Allen, A11, has a passion for public health and racial justice that was fueled by her experiences at Tufts and Tisch College. Now she is changing the way hospitals and healthcare systems reinvest in their communities at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Jennica Allen, A11, was recently named one of the de Beaumont Foundation’s 40 under 40 in Public Health, leaders who “reflect the best of the public health field and have made impressive accomplishments in improving the health of communities across the country.” At the Bureau of Community Health and Prevention with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Allen works with hospitals and healthcare systems as they reinvest project funds in their communities, focusing on “bringing the message of public health [and] racial justice, which to me are one and the same, into spaces where they are not, and the connection is not readily visible.”
Civic engagement is a driving theme in Allen’s life. She recalls being actively involved in her local community throughout her youth and hoping to continue this work as she applied to universities. In the Tufts admissions process, she was introduced to the Tisch Scholars Program. “To know that there was a landing spot for me where the engagement piece was highlighted and elevated and important, the day I got my [acceptance] letter I was like ‘yeah that's it, that's my school.’”
Once on campus, Allen immediately found her academic home in the community health program, a feeling that was reinforced by her experiences outside the classroom in Tisch College programming. “I was called to public health very early and the Tisch experience only enhanced and further contributed to creating a complete picture of what my career could be and should be and the spaces I wanted to work in.”
As a Tisch Scholar, Allen collaborated on a variety of projects meant to engage the university and community partners. She was first introduced to the Welcome Project in Somerville, where she tutored children with immigration experiences. She also worked with the Alumni Office on Tufts’ sesquicentennial celebration, helping to get alumni and other stakeholders engaged in the commemorations. Her culminating project as a Tisch Scholar was tied to her Community Health Practicum with the Boston Public Health Commission’s then-named Center for Health Equity and Social Justice. She developed curriculum for the Commission’s training program on the intersection of racial justice and public health. These projects were transformational for Allen, who credits her Tisch College experiences with launching her career trajectory in a way she describes as “invaluable.”
“Tisch always felt like a sort of grounding space within the larger university experience but, for me, the one piece that really carries through.”
After graduation, Allen was inspired by her academic advisor to join a program in Washington D.C. through the Kaiser Family Foundation and Howard University for young people interested in public health. She then returned to Boston to continue her education, receiving a Master of Public Health in social and behavioral sciences from Boston University School of Public Health. Since then, she has worked in the Department of Public Health, marrying her background in civic engagement and racial justice with public health initiatives.
As an alumna, Allen remains connected to her Tufts and Tisch roots. She is still in contact with many of her friends through the Tisch Scholars Program, serves on the Tufts Alumni Council, and returns to campus to speak with current Scholars and reflect on the value of civic engagement. Tufts “sets you up for what's out there beyond the Medford-Somerville campus. You need to know that there is a world where you're going to start engaging with people who do not have your same experiences… and you can all engage in important matters regardless of those differences in context.”
Allen’s advice to students is the importance of finding what drives you or “your why” and to stand firm in that. “I have been able to combine my love and understanding of public health and racial justice to facilitate ‘aha’ moments for others. That has certainly been the most rewarding thing that I've been able to do across my career and every time it happens, I have a reinforced feeling of ‘yeah this is right.’”