Community health major Leah Bruch might not be afraid of public speaking, but presenting her paper at the American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting and exposition as an undergraduate definitely was a bit nerve-wracking.
The APHA meeting and exposition brings together 13,000 researchers, administrators, doctors, and health specialists from all over the world. It is the largest conference of its kind in North America. This year, it was held in Boston, and with the help of a $500 travel grant from the College of Health and Human Services that is usually reserved for graduate students, Bruch was able to attend. She presented her research to peers, a bit nervous considering the advanced degrees surrounding her. But she loved it.
“It prepared me for the future and helped me see what was out there,” Bruch says.
Bruch’s paper, “Event Specific Examination of Alcohol Consumption and Sexual Behavior among College Students in the United States,” was co-written with global and community health professor Joshua Rosenberger and served as the culmination of a year of research and more than 1,000 surveys filled out by George Mason University students.
She credits Rosenberger, her mentor, for much of her success. “He crafted me into a researcher and was my crutch whenever I needed help.”
Bruch is a fellow in George Mason’s Office of Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR) and has been working with Rosenberg for more than a year.
As for her research, the results of her study were a bit surprising. While most studies show tendencies of binge-drinking and risky sexual behavior, Mason students bucked the trend.
Among the diverse responses, Bruch found that people were drinking in a much more social manner, with friends or significant others, and in lighter amounts. And alcohol was much less of a determinate factor when it came to why respondents engaged in certain behaviors, particularly sex. While she doesn’t dispute previous work in the study, she does think that there is something about Mason that makes it an interesting study.
“We’re not like other big state universities,” she points out. She would like to expand the study to further evaluate how Mason compares with other schools and see whether there is an underlying cause to the idiosyncrasies of Mason’s student population that might apply to other schools or be further analyzed in additional research.
Bruch will graduate in December with a BS in community health and plans to enroll in graduate school next fall.