Humphrey Alum Selected for Prestigious Fellowship
November 1, 2016—Jasmine Blanks Jones, a Humphrey School of Public Affairs alumna who is now a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, has been selected by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as one of its inaugural Health Policy Research Scholars.
Blanks Jones (MPP ’08) is specializing in education, culture and society at Penn’s Graduate School of Education. The grant will allow her to continue work she has been conducting in Liberia and the United States, investigating ways to engage youth in public health issues. Her main intervention is using international public health case studies to find best practices in civic development that influence health choices.
“The arts are a powerful tool to engage people on these sensitive issues while educating them about how to prevent the spread of life-threatening ailments, and helping people to seek resources without shame in order to live fuller lives,” Blanks Jones said. “Within the RWJF Culture of Health framework, my contributions will be best realized in the area of making health a shared value.”
Blanks Jones has been working in Liberia for the past six years through the Burning Barriers, Building Bridges (B4) Youth Theatre, which teaches young people to express themselves through the arts.
The B4 Youth Theatre program grew from Blanks Jones’ thesis at the Humphrey School, which outlined a business plan and model for a residential school focused on using the arts to develop the talent and academic ability of underserved youth.
After Blanks Jones completed her Master of Public Policy degree, a summer internship in Liberia required that she start an arts program at an orphanage. The B4 Youth Theatre’s model grew from that program. She now spends part of each year in Liberia while working toward her PhD.
Blanks Jones credits Humphrey School faculty members for teaching her to work across policy interests and community interests, “working on collaborations between businesses and schools, learning how community members could more deeply engage with the policies that directly impact their lives, and addressing the intersections between race and economic inequality.”
“These varied research experiences helped me see the connections across different areas of policy and practice, and how these intersections impact the daily lives of individuals and communities,” she said.
Blanks Jones is part of a group of 40 diverse first- and second-year doctoral students from multiple disciplines at institutions across the country that make up the Health Policy Research Scholars section of the RWJF program.
Created for people who are traditionally underrepresented in doctoral programs and led by Johns Hopkins University, the program’s intent is to diversify the next generation of leaders, ensuring that policies and solutions are inclusive and relevant to the communities being served.
The doctoral students are among 150 participants across four new programs that will receive professional coaching, mentoring, networking opportunities, and advanced leadership seminars to develop skills needed to work across sectors and make an impact.
Material reprinted with permission from the University of Pennsylvania.