5/17/2012 Chris Karlesky

Ishmael Buckner ’12: Storming into Environmental and Public-Health Issues

A profile of Ishmael Buckner ’12 is Part II of “Faces of the Class of 2012,” a series on the academic and extracurricular interests of graduating seniors.

  • Ishmael Buckner '12 Ishmael Buckner ’12 embarked on a host of environmental and public-health initiatives at F&M. (Photo by Tim Brixius)

Hometown: Accokeek, Md.
Academic Major: Environmental Studies major; Science, Technology and Society (Medicine in Society) minor

Ishmael Buckner ’12 has a friend to thank for his introduction to Franklin & Marshall.

“A friend of mine visited F&M when I was in high school and told me, ‘This place would be good for you. I think you’ll like it,’” Buckner said. “So I came to visit, liked it and applied. It was the perfect storm.”

In the four years since then, Buckner, an environmental studies major and science, technology and society minor at F&M, has stormed into a host of environmental and public-health initiatives at F&M. He arrived on campus with a keen interest in environmental activism after his participation in the Sierra Student Coalition, a national network of students working to protect the environment. The Maryland native started a chapter of the Sierra Coalition at F&M and also lived in the College’s Sustainability House, where students live communally to minimize their impact on the environment.

In the classroom, Buckner coupled his interest in the environment with a developing passion for public health. He noticed connections between the fields during his enrollment in the course “Health Risks and the Environment,” taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Public Policy Rich Pepino, and later learned about the political structures shaping policy on health in a course titled “Health Policy” with Joseph Karlesky, The Honorable and Mrs. John C. Kunkel Professor of Government.

The summer after his sophomore year, Buckner put his interest in public health into practice during a trip to Khayelitsha Township, South Africa. He and 13 other students traveled to South Africa for “Global Public Health,” a travel course led by Kirk Miller, the B.F. Fackenthal Jr. Professor of Biology. The course gave students a multidisciplinary look at the public-health issues facing Khayelitsha and nearby communities.

“We met with doctors, nurses and local residents in Khayelitsha,” said Buckner, who worked at the Medical Knowledge Institute in Khayelitsha. “It made me aware of the disconnect in public knowledge about health. For example, it was not common sense to wash a cut. That was eye-opening. We take a lot of knowledge for granted [in the United States].”

Back on home soil, Bucker completed an independent research project with an ambitious goal: to create a historical and qualitative guide to careers in healing. His aim was to help future F&M students interested in healing careers that do not require an M.D., including speech language pathology, social work, acupuncture and physical therapy, among others.

“I interviewed a variety of health practitioners, many of them F&M alumni, about how they got into their careers,” said Buckner, who worked on the project with Associate Professor of Science, Technology and Society Jim Strick. “All of the alumni were grateful for their experiences at F&M.”

And so is Buckner, who added another layer to his education by serving on two committees at the College: the Fair Practices Committee and Budget Priorities Committee, both of which allowed him to work closely with faculty members and high-level administrators, including vice presidents and other senior officers of the institution.

“The committees allowed me to see how F&M works, and I got to connect with senior officers in a way most students can’t. I’m very happy with the experience.”

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