Student Spotlight: Areanna Ryan (‘22) Gives Back to her Community During her Internship at The Greater Lawrence Health Center

Senior Areanna Ryan is a member of the Class of 2022, a Public Health Major, and was involved in the OnStagers Crew.

Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose to work at the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center? What makes this company a great place to work?

With my internship, I wanted to work with a nonprofit organization. I really wanted to get out into the community, and the Greater Lawrence Health Center does that perfectly. They are out in the community and helping people, just like I want to do.

How did you find this position, and can you tell us a little bit about what you do there? And is there any advice you’d give to other students looking to break into this company?

My supervisor used to help run a class at Merrimack. He partnered with a professor to help teach about social determinants of health in Lawrence. During the class, he said he was looking for interns. I reached out to him after the class because of how awesome my experience was in the class. There are many opportunities to get involved in the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center if students want to.

One example of a project I’ve worked on recently is that we took surveys from patients at seven different centers in the area. We compiled the positive comments and put them into a document to send to the various sites that we surveyed to provide positive feedback to those who work in the centers. We are even taking them and making a ranked list so we can talk to the CEO about improving based on the feedback.

Can you talk us through the process of finding and applying for your internship?

Networking was crucial to my hiring. My biggest advice to students is to communicate with people and reach out as a way to reaffirm interest by following up. You never know what will come out of it. Getting the internship would have been much more difficult without that connection that I made in the class.

How did the O’Brien Center help with getting prepared to apply, with the interview or with the job search?

I’ve worked with the O’Brien Center with setting up my Handshake account and by attending mock interviews. The mock interviews were my first experience with interviewing that I’ve ever had. They were a HUGE help. Before applying to my internship, I also went to the O’Brien Center to get help to build and go over my resume.

Being nervous about interviewing is normal! The O’Brien Center for Career Development has a technology resource tool called Quinncia that gives Merrimack students unlimited access to practicing interview questions online in order to be prepared for those stressful interviews. It’s free and available 24/7 here.

In general, how did Merrimack contribute to your career development? What other campus resources did you use to help with getting this internship?

I’ve used the Academic Success Center quite a bit, as well as the Accessibility Center. I’m a student who has a learning disability, and the Accessibility Center gave me a lot of confidence. When I was struggling, they gave me a lot of support.

Ashley Hall was also a huge help. She is the one that connected me with the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center and their AHEC program, and helped me figure out what I wanted to do in public health.

What surprised you about your internship experience? Were there any situations that came up that you were unprepared for?

They treat it like a job. I assumed I’d be shadowing, but I got thrown into work and impacting the community. It’s also a remote internship, and I didn’t know that going in. I have had a lot of support from my supervisor and team.

The process of getting an internship was stressful. I have to have internship hours for my major, and I wanted to find something that I was interested in for a career. It was hard to commit to a specific internship.

I really wanted to focus on what I liked and wanted to learn more about. I originally was worried that it may not be a good fit, but I’ve learned a lot about what goes on behind the scenes and how a clinic runs on paper, such as grants and outside funding.

What skills have you developed working for this company and what do you wish you had known prior to starting the internship there?

I’ve learned a lot about professional communication skills in particular. I’ve also learned a lot of information about the field of public health, as well as what I like or don’t like within the field. Most important to me is that I’ve figured out that I want to be more hands-on in my career and in the community, rather than behind a desk. Something memorable that I’ve done is that I’ve been a part of the team that met with the Mayor of Lawrence and the Public Health Task Force.

I wish I had kept an open mind. As I mentioned, I was so scared about wanting to find my fit that I hadn’t taken the time to look around in the field for more internship opportunities.

Any campus shout-outs to folks who have helped you along the way in getting you to this point?

I’d like to shout out to my public health professors. Once I found I enjoyed public health, I dove headfirst into classes in that field. I would meet my professors during office hours to discuss their career paths and pick their brains. Why not take advantage of that and ask about their experiences? These professors are professionals in their fields, they are a resource and they’re right in front of you. Students should really look to secure relationships with professors in their major.

Speaking of your time at Merrimack, how did you grow in your time here? Were there any influential clubs, jobs, professors, or moments for you?

I really struggled academically sophomore year. I hated chemistry and my grades were slipping. The Accessibility Center, the Academic Success Center, and just the Merrimack community helped me get through it. And the experiences I’ve had here helped me learn what I liked to do. The OnStagers also really helped to get me into the community and make friends.

Seven Things You Wouldn’t Know About Areanna!

  • Favorite Merrimack memory so far? I would say this year’s Block Party. I also loved seeing theatre shows on campus, which may be obvious since I was involved with the OnStagers.
  • Best dining location on campus? Definitely Mindful Mac.
  • And your favorite Merrimack food? I loved the stir fry and I really miss it.
  • If you could dine with any person, fictional or historical, who would it be? Gordon Ramsey.
  • Favorite musical artist(s) or best concert you’ve ever been to? I would say my first concert, which was Avril Lavigne. I was really young when I went, and that concert took the cake as she tried to pull me up on stage.
  • Best career advice you ever heard? You’re going to have different and evolving interests and change your career path based on it, but you will find what you want to do, it’s ok to switch and change your mind. Even if you’ve already graduated, it’s ok to switch careers.
  • What stands out as Merrimack’s greatest feature? The community.
By Casey Stevenson
Casey Stevenson Communication & Copywriting Intern