Class of 2023: Stephanie Valencic lives 'Ut Prosim' through a passion for public health
Name: Stephanie Valencic
Major: Public health
Minor: Medicine and society
Hometown: Christiansburg, Virginia
Plans after graduation: Valencic plans to earn a Master of Public Health and a Ph.D. and pursue career in biosecurity and biosafety.
Favorite Hokie memory: "As a member of the Corps of Cadets, one of the coolest experiences was being able to jump on the football field during Enter Sandman at each football game. It's an absolutely electrifying experience to be surrounded by thousands of Hokies all singing and jumping while the football players run out and high-five us."
"Finding public health, I really found myself, my purpose, what I'm passionate about,” said Stephanie Valencic, who was named the Bachelor of Science in Public Health program’s 2023 Outstanding Senior.
Valencic entered the university as a biology major, but she was introduced to public health when she took an elective class in medical geography during her first year. She immediately knew that public health was her future — it sparked her fascination like none other.
Over her four years at Virginia Tech, Valencic has kept busy. In addition to earning her bachelor's degree, she is a member of the Corps of Cadets and has enrolled in the Accelerated Master of Public Health program. The accelerated program allows Valencic to complete the first year of her master's degree during the last year of her bachelor’s degree.
A different way to serve
Upon entering Virginia Tech, Valencic planned on pursuing a career in the U.S. Air Force and joined the Corps of Cadets. After being medically disqualified from service, she continued in the corps in the Citizen-Leader Track and public health offered her a different way to serve.
Being in the Corps of Cadets not only helped shape Valencic’s undergraduate experience, it has given her leadership skills that will prove invaluable in her future career.
"It's an incredible experience. I was lucky enough last year to be on the training staff for the incoming freshmen, and that was an opportunity that I don't think will ever be matched. It's a 24/7 leadership learning experience that I am so grateful I got to be a part of,” said Valencic.
An infectious enthusiasm for research
Through the public health program, Valencic developed an interest in pathogen spread and infectious disease. She has also gained hands-on experience working in ViTALS, the veterinary college’s on-site interdisciplinary diagnostic laboratory.
Over the course of her education, she has worked on several projects. During Valencic’s sophomore year, she conducted research on substance abuse recovery during the pandemic. The experience allowed her to talk to people in recovery, set up clinics and needle exchange programs, and present her research.
Another highlight was Valencic’s research on diphtheria vaccines and vaccine outreach in Angola, which offered an opportunity to learn about different cultures’ attitudes towards vaccines.
A future in helping others
Valencic’s experience looking at different cultural responses to vaccines will prove valuable this summer as she starts an internship with Walter Reed Institute of Research. For her internship, she will work on clinical trial research for a lassa fever vaccine in Nigeria.
"I'm excited to look at different cultural practices and how that impacts public health as a whole and impacts clinical trials,” said Valencic.
After completing her education, she plans a career in biosecurity and biosafety.
"I've always been fascinated by all the things we don't know, and ever since I was young, I wanted to help people. My main passion is helping people.”