Monica D. Allen, DrPH, MPH, Chair

Monica AllenAn Important Message from Public Health and Recreation's New Chair, Dr. Monica Allen:

As I assume the role of Chair of the Department of Public Health and Recreation at San José State University, I have many things on my mind. I feel the pride of being part of a department that has programs with long and robust histories on campus and in the larger community. I feel gratitude and humility at the confidence placed in me by the faculty, and the weight of the expectations that come with the job. I am contemplating all that I need to learn, and what it means to be successful in this role and to contribute to the success of the department by supporting our faculty, staff, students and alumni.

In this time of transition in the department, I can’t help but think about the fact that there is great change in our society, and it doesn’t seem to be in the right direction. The recent overturn of Roe vs. Wade by our Supreme Court has significant immediate and long-term impacts on the health of women and girls in this country. What is worse, we received a clear signal that this is only the beginning. In the communication that came with the decision, Justice Thomas suggested that the Supreme Court may reconsider previous decisions related to contraception and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. On the heels of several Supreme Court decisions that impact public health, horrific scenes of gun violence, racial unrest prompted by hate crimes directed toward specific communities, a pandemic that is overwhelmingly impacting some populations disproportionately, and the visible results of climate change, the attitude of the highest court in our country is disturbing, disheartening and distressing!

As a department comprised of three programs that promote social justice, we need to be more than just concerned. It is our mandate to work to create an equitable and just society. What does that mean? Different things for different people. There are already conversations happening within the department about how to incorporate more advocacy action into our curriculum. We will use our social media and other platforms to inform, educate and advocate for change in the right direction. We have op-ed pieces being submitted to local and national media outlets. The campus newspaper, the Spartan Daily, is doing an issue on the Roe vs. Wade decision and our department is taking steps to make sure our views are heard there. I am engaged with a group that is starting a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in my county. I know of a faculty member that is participating in a training institute on teaching social action. These are only a few examples; I have no doubt that members of the PHR community are working at all levels of change. What we do next depends on our time and capabilities. The important thing is that we turn our feelings into action, that we work together to create the society we all deserve. It is vital that we, as a community, are committed to acting on the principles that guide our disciplines: healthy communities, equity and social justice.

As we react and respond to these national crises, we celebrate and welcome a new justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. There are other encouraging signs; as I was walking in my neighborhood yesterday, I passed a group of tween and young teen boys. They were chatting and I heard one tell his friend to “Check your privilege!” I smiled as I realized that our messages are getting through. The younger generation is being taught that everyone isn’t the same and that we have responsibilities to each other. So, as I begin this transition, the main thing I am feeling is hopeful anticipation; I am excited to see what we can do collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy. 

For more on Dr. Monica Allen, please visit her About Us page.