Giving Matters:
Mary T Scholars

Tyler Best will never forget the first time he spoke about HIV before a village in Cameroon. He could feel the tension in the air.

“I am not an expert,” he said. “You have experience in your history, and you know how to do things that I would never be able to do.”

As Best spoke, he could see people’s faces relax. After his introduction that day, he set to work on a month-long project related to preventing HIV/AIDS, talking to and surveying total strangers about condom use and sexual activity. Before the end of his stay, Best and a retired doctor spoke on the radio to share survey results, which showed general familiarity with HIV prevention as well as particular issues that could be addressed.

Best is a student in a dual-degree program for a master of social work (MSW) and master in public health (MPH), following community health tracks in both. In Cameroon, he learned to use the community-based approach that is becoming the new paradigm in his fields. When he graduates, he hopes to work on public health campaigns in refugee camps or HIV campaigns anywhere in the world.

“This experience was an affirmation of the trajectory I want to take.”
—Tyler Best, dual-degree student, MSW/MPH

Best did not go to Cameroon alone but with four other graduate students. Scholarships from the Mary T. International Scholars Fund allowed them to undertake community projects that ranged from food sustainability to curriculum development in the Bamenda region. The group spent days at their work sites and evenings together, sharing meals and each other’s stories.

“I knew that, to be effective, the group would have to work together and share experiences,” says Mary Tjosvold, whose gift created the fund last year. Tjosvold’s work in Cameroon began in 2002, establishing a nursery and primary school. She knows the University, and as she got to know Cameroon, she recognized the potential for an exchange.

“My goal has always been to make a difference in someone’s life—and I share that goal with CEHD,” she says. “It’s in everything we do.”

Tjosvold is excited that her concept is a model for other study abroad programs.

“It’s incredible that someone is so generous as to fund five people to pursue their interests half way across the world,” says Best. “Most grad students can’t do it themselves.”

Find out how you can make a difference at CEHD Fundraising Priorities.