Sam White ’06, a corporate communications graduate and a member of the inaugural Periclean Scholars class, returned to campus earlier this fall to share insights with members of the Periclean Class of 2017.
Sam White was a sophomore in 2004 when she and other members of the Periclean Class of 2006 traveled to Namibia to document the HIV/AIDS epidemic that was ravaging the country. At the time, “HIV and AIDS was literally decimating the entire population of parents,” White recalls. “So many kids we met had lost one or both of their parents to this deadly disease.”
Her plan was to conduct interviews and help produce a documentary and a series of public service announcements to raise awareness about the disease. What she didn’t know was that the trip was going to have far-reaching effects, for 10 years later, White is still connected to the African continent. “I knew after that trip that I really wanted to devote my life and my career to addressing a lot of these social injustices and health inequities that existed around the world,” she says.
Before going into the program, White’s plans included moving to New York City to work in corporate communications. Instead, she has trained journalists for the International Women’s Media Foundation and served in Malawi as a Global Health Corps Fellow for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Now a public health professional working for Volt Workforce Solutions on the strategy, measurement and evaluation team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, she hopes to continue making a difference by serving as a Periclean-in-Residence for the Elon Periclean Class of 2017. The scholars have adopted Namibia for their project and will be visiting the country in the near future.
White shared some insights with the students during a visit to campus earlier in the fall. As someone who was once in their shoes, she says, she can relate to the sense of uncertainty students may feel while figuring out how to best go about their project. “When we started this program, the Periclean Scholars program, we didn’t have a class that came before us that sort of had been there and done that,” she says. “Everything was an experiment and every year that experiment has become more and more refined.”
She says she is thrilled to play a part in shaping the next generation of Periclean Scholars. “I think it’s absolutely important for alumni to play a role in continuing to shape that program,” she says, adding that alumni have institutional knowledge that grows from year to year, which can be extremely helpful to students. “I made a promise to the mentor for the classes [that] I will send an email to some old Pericleans from the class of 2006 and see if we can form an advisory board.
“It’s definitely a way that we can still be involved in a program that I think shaped a lot of us.”