Gia Grier McGinnis, DrPH

Executive Director of the Center for Community, Service, and Justice & the York Road Initiative

Loyola University Maryland

As the Executive Director, I support the team that develops educational activities and programs to ensure the success and wellbeing of our scholars. I develop outside partnerships for the program. Finally, I work with others at the university who raise money for our work and who promote the program to others.

I love that our program provides opportunities in science, healthcare, and technology to youth who may not otherwise be able to access it. I also love to make connections between people and to help make programs stronger.

Every day is different! I have meetings with social workers, university professors, educators, fundraisers, and communication professionals. Sometimes I have to give presentations to people who want to learn more about the program, volunteer with us, or donate money. Other times I talk to our CURE parents about how we can better support them. I love going to the CURE classrooms and seeing our scholars. We also go on fun STEM field trips.

When I was a child, I loved science and nature. When I was in middle and high school, I attended programs that taught me about environmental science and environmental health that included scientists that looked like me. These programs inspired me to go to college and to get an environmental studies degree. I went back to school and got a natural resources degree where I conducted research with a team about environmental justice in a community in Michigan. Later in life, after I got married and had children, I went back to school (again!) and received a Doctor of Public Health degree. This time my research was in partnership with a program that trained former smokers to teach free quit smoking classes in their community. My career has had two themes--one related to community engagement and another involving science, health, and the environment. In my early career I worked as an environmental educator through a national service program called AmeriCorps. I then worked then as an outreach consultant for a private company that helped the federal government communicate their science projects and policies to the public. More recently, I have worked at universities with college students, college professors, and youth helping them do things in their community. The university I work for now used to run one of the environmental programs I attended in high school--so I've gone full circle.

I wish I could say that I have my career goals fully mapped out, but I don't. What I have learned is that there are many opportunities out there, and if you select them by staying true to what you value and to what your passions are, you can do all sorts of things. On a more personal note, my children are getting older, and watching them further develop as teenagers and adults will be a new adventure.

I love hiking. I also love to read books on all sorts of subjects. I also volunteer for fun. I volunteer with environmental organizations and one nonprofit called 'NAMI Maryland' that advocates for better mental health for everyone in my state.

"This may only be a dream of mine, but I think it can be made real." - Ella Baker