Alecia Fields

Alecia Fields

Undergraduate Spotlight

by Colleen Glenn

Experience is the best teacher. Just ask Alecia Fields. Having recently returned from Africa, Fields knows firsthand how invaluable direct experience can be.

Fields, a 2010 graduate, spent time this summer in Ethiopia as a participant in the Sierra Club's Global Population & Environment Study Tour. One of three activists selected to spend 10 days in Ethiopia as a volunteer, Fields visited various sites and organizations around the country to learn about the impacts of population growth on the environment.

>>View Alecia's photos from Ethiopia

“It’s places like Ethiopia that climate change is really showing its effects the most,” says Fields. “When I talked with students about global population and the environment in the United States, it was challenging to articulate how these two topics were intertwined. But from the second we got off the plane in Ethiopia and started having meetings, I was struck by how much everybody understood the issue. We had 15 year-old students telling us, ‘If we can limit our family sizes and use family planning, we can protect the earth, and we can be happy, healthy, and economically more prosperous.’ It was really neat to see how much the communities we visited had taken ownership of the movement.”

Even before setting foot in Africa, Fields began developing her knowledge of other cultures and places. Fields cites courses in anthropology as proving to be some of the most important classes she took as an undergraduate, mentioning “Third World Development” and “Cultures and the People of Sub Saharan Africa” in particular.

“Those were my first two courses towards my international studies minor,” Fields says. “They were wonderful. Then when I was getting ready for my trip to Africa, I kept thinking about those classes so much. It was really kind of neat to see classes all of a sudden become real life.”

Her anthropology courses were not the only ones that helped shape Fields’s career interests. A freshmen seminar on regulating sex and gender in the United States inspired her to combine her interest in medicine with women’s health advocacy. “From that moment on, that subject resonated with me, and I thought, ‘I really want to do more with this, but there’s not a major for it.’”

Fields had already decided before applying to college that she wanted to be a doctor. But rather than pursue the standard pre-med curriculum, Fields opted instead to create her own unique academic program. With the help of her advisor, Joanna Badagliacco, Fields created a topical studies major that would enable her to combine her interests in women’s health, medicine, and global cultures.

But Fields was not satisfied with simply taking courses in gender and women’s studies, anthropology, and biology. Along with a classmate, Fields started a chapter of the national organization VOX (Voices for Planned Parenthood) on campus. She also volunteered for the VIP (Violence, Intervention and Prevention) Center, an organization at UK that works to eliminate personal violence in the lives of students, faculty, and staff.

This fall, Fields moves to Blacksburg, VA, where she will embark on her medical degree at Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine. The program attracted her attention because of its dedication to holistic medicine, as well as its devotion to local and international activism and relief efforts.

Though Blacksburg will be home base for the next several years, Fields is already planning on returning to Ethiopia as a volunteer or intern at a women’s hospital she visited. “In my dream world, I would be able to spend at least a month out of each year volunteering services to underserved communities abroad.”