Volunteer Spotlight: Maria Bitanga (MPH ’16)

By Sara Pennebecker | September 11, 2019
Maria Bitanga is a 2016 graduate of the Public Health Administration & Policy program and currently works as the clinical quality improvement coordinator for University of Minnesota Physicians. Bitanga volunteers on the SPH Alumni Society Board of Directors, chairs the Mentoring Committee, serves as a mentor in the award-winning SPH Mentor Program, and volunteers on the SPH 75th Anniversary Planning Committee.

What is your favorite part of volunteering with SPH?
My favorite part of volunteering at SPH is connecting with the students, whether it is asking for their help with events or simply getting to know hem. I consider myself an ‘adopted’ Gopher, since I only intended to come to Minnesota to complete my MPH and with that came the fear and anxiety of meeting new people and being in unfamiliar territory. I sought comfort from mentors and alumni who provided guidance and helped me along the way. Now as an alum, I want to be available for students, form deep connections, and be an advocate for them to ensure their voices are heard.

Why did you decide to volunteer with SPH?
The School of Public Health gave me the platform to build relationships by connecting with other professionals in the field and access to mentors to advance my career, which ultimately helped me transition into my current role. The dedication and passion among professors, mentors, staff, and alumni motivated me to continue my connection to SPH as a way of giving back to my alma mater.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering with SPH?
The School of Public Health is a great way to get involved! The school has many resources and the legacy of a strong alumni network. There are multiple ways to get involved and stay connected. SPH has always welcomed and encouraged innovative thinking, creativity, and volunteerism that will help you build lasting relationships with other alumni.

Public Health is altruistic by nature; we communicate, promote, and ensure good health is available for all. Advocacy, research, strategy, and quality continually create an automatic bond that we all share. By volunteering, we are able to share ideas and ensure the future of public health is bright.

What advice would you offer to your fellow alums?
My advice would be to be open minded and find your passion; whether it is mentoring students, joining a volunteer committee or attending alumni events.

As a brand new alum I was hesitant to sign up as a mentor due to what I saw as a lack of professional experience. However, students have indicated an appreciation for having access to recent grads. As a mentor, I have learned that mentoring is all about authentically engaging with others, whether it is lending an ear, providing advice or even just words of encouragement. I encourage my fellow alumni to sign up to mentor!

Nominate an Alum for our Volunteer Spotlight Series
The School of Public Health boasts extraordinary volunteers who help advance our mission and values. Our volunteers serve on boards and committees, mentor current students, serve as guest lecturers, and so much more. Our volunteer spotlight series highlights the incredible contributions these individuals are making to SPH. Know an amazing volunteer at SPH? Submit their name and brief description of why they should be highlighted to sph-alum@umn.edu to be considered for a future spotlight.

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