Ruby Kerwin is a Class of 2015 Flinn Scholar who graduated from University High School in Tucson. She is currently earning a master’s degree at Arizona State University.
Flinn: What led you to apply for the Flinn Scholarship?
Ruby: I went to a high school that had had multiple Flinn Scholars before me and I remember hearing about the opportunities and community they found with Flinn, but I did not have a clear idea of what the Flinn Scholarship was. I decided to fill out an application, but at that point I was set on going to college out of state. After I spent time talking with current Flinn Scholars and learning more about the resources, experiences, and support available to Flinn Scholars, I realized I really wanted the Scholarship.
Flinn: When offered the Flinn Scholarship, did you hesitate to accept it? If so, what considerations were you considering?
Ruby: By the time I was offered the Flinn Scholarship, I was really excited to accept it. I had learned about the opportunities Flinn provides and the academic programs at Arizona State University through the interview process. I had been considering a few liberal-arts schools, because I was attracted to the smaller classes and strong campus communities. After talking to professors at ASU and current Flinn Scholars, I realized I would have more opportunities in research, community involvement, and coursework at ASU if I chose to accept Flinn.
Flinn: What has surprised you most about your Flinn Scholarship experience?
Ruby: The Flinn community has been an incredible support system for me throughout college. Every Flinn Scholar I know has very different interests and has had unique college experiences, but each one is passionate, creative, and genuine. Some of my best memories from college are traveling, living, hiking, cooking, and studying with fellow Flinn Scholars. The friends I have made through Flinn are thoughtful and interesting, and I have grown so much as part of this community.
Flinn: How did you choose ASU for undergraduate studies?
Ruby: I ultimately chose ASU because of Barrett, the Honors College. After visiting the different campuses as a Flinn Finalist, I recognized that both ASU and the University of Arizona had strong academic programs I was interested in, but I was really attracted to the community and opportunities Barrett provides. I am also from Tucson, so I was ready to try living somewhere else.
Flinn: What is your major?
Ruby: Anthropology and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Flinn: Was this your planned field of study upon entering college? If not, what caused you to change?
Ruby: I started college as a biology and anthropology major, but early in my freshman year I discovered GIS. I thought I wanted to go to medical school and become a primary-care physician, but I decided to spend time exploring some other interests to confirm that this was the right decision for me. These programs gave me more flexibility to spend a semester abroad and take a wide variety of classes while also completing the medical-school prerequisites.
Flinn: What has been the most important academic/on-campus experience you’ve had while at ASU?
Ruby: The most important academic experience for me has been the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in GIS. I completed my undergraduate coursework in three years, and the Flinn Foundation and ASU made it possible to apply my final year of funding to a one-year master’s program. Not only have I been able to advance my technical skills, but the program has connected me to many different research and professional opportunities.
Flinn: What has been the most important off-campus experience you’ve had while at ASU?
Ruby: I spent a semester interning at the Arizona Department of Health Services with the Environmental Public Health Tracking Program. I was able to secure this internship because of the Flinn Foundation’s support and network of alumni and community connections. Prior to this internship, I knew I was interested in GIS and public health, but I did not have a clear idea of how I wanted to combine these interests. I worked on a project focused on creating an online GIS platform to identify populations at risk for potential environmental-health hazards. I had a chance to learn about using GIS in public-health interventions, and I realized I wanted to have a career in epidemiology.
Flinn: What will be your next step following graduation?
Ruby: I will be working for Partners in Health in Chiapas, Mexico, as a Monitoring, Evaluation and Quality Volunteer for the next year. I will be working with community health workers to improve program outcomes on primary care projects in rural communities. I’m excited to get to use my data analysis and GIS skills and learn more about global health. I’m planning on applying to medical school in the next few years and hoping to become a primary care physician.
Flinn: What has been your most memorable travel experience as a Flinn Scholar? Why?
Ruby: I am grateful for the Flinn trip to China after our freshman year, because I was able to gain a lot of confidence traveling internationally before I traveled alone. My most memorable travel experience as a Flinn Scholar was the eight months I spent in South America. I spent the first half at the National Outdoor Leadership School in Chile. I mountaineered, sea kayaked, and backpacked through Patagonia while studying environmental science, leadership skills, decision making, and risk management. I then studied at Spanish language schools in Bolivia, Peru, and Costa Rica for the next four months. I am grateful for a travel experience where I could be flexible and independent and also improve my Spanish-language skills while living with host families in a few different countries.
Flinn: What might candidates for the Flinn Scholarship miss that’s important for them to understand about the Flinn Scholars Program?
Ruby: The Flinn Scholarship provides you with flexibility. The opportunities available at the universities and with Flinn make it possible to explore different fields and majors. The travel funding provides you with the chance to design your own study-abroad experience. The financial flexibility of the Flinn Scholarship allows you to pursue internships, volunteer experiences, and opportunities after college without having to worry about debt.