Five Questions for Kenneth
1. Who or what inspired you to enter the field of public health?
As an undergraduate studying advertising, I came across an Austin- and Portland-based social marketing agency called EnviroMedia. They were doing super creative work for clients in the public health and environmental fields. I was instantly drawn to the idea of using advertising for social good. I ended up interning with EnviroMedia my last semester of college. At the same time, I became interested in how to engage in meaningful social justice work. Upon graduation during a tanked economy, I found that a public health degree was the most practical way to make a real impact on the issues I was seeing in communities.
2. What are the greatest challenges you face in your public health work or area of focus?
Although I’m a policy analyst, I rarely sit behind a screen and read or write policies. I spend a lot of time building and sustaining coalitions. Building a coalition isn’t particularly difficult. However, keeping people around, making sure they are engaged in the work of the coalition, and ultimately making an impact on policies and systems is a different story. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole, but not when the parts aren’t functioning or simply disappear.
3. What’s a story or experience that keeps you going, even when you’re feeling challenged?
In grad school I spent some time interviewing individuals experiencing homelessness. We sat down and had full conversations with folks. To know that so many people are a couple lost paychecks away from being in a similar situation is motivating. These issues shouldn’t exist in this country. The inequity shouldn’t be so stark. I think about the people I spoke with, their stories, their faces.
4. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a small business owner. Growing up in an (half) Asian household, a lot of family friends owned restaurants. I still have a tiny bit of hope for my coffee shop idea.
5. Describe yourself in three words.
Enduring. Thoughtful. Strategic.