Growing up, Denisha Hobbs would spend her after-school hours at her grandparents' home, just a block away from her own. By the time she got to college and started thinking about a career, it would become clear how much those afternoons meant to her.
Now an M.P.A. student at the University of Baltimore, Denisha wants to be an advocate for older adults and help create, or at least guide, policies that protect their access and rights to healthcare.
"What I've been seeing in research—we could talk about dementia, we could talk about Alzheimer's, hypertension—for so many health issues that older adults face, a lot of programs aren't geared toward them," Denisha says.
"My thing is, if you live that long, how would you want to be treated?"
Denisha has fully immersed herself into the graduate school experience, agreeing to every opportunity that comes her way. She has been a graduate assistant and research assistant, a representative of UB's Graduate Public Administration Student Association, an intern with the Baltimore-based National Summer Learning Association, an orientation leader for new UB students, an academic coach at UB's Robert L. Bogomolny Library and a fellow with the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.
"I came here with my only expectation to get my master's, so everything else has been icing on the cake," Denisha says.
Being able to take her program courses online have helped Denisha make the most of her time.
Denisha started classes in the fall of 2018, but had her first UB experience the summer before, capitalizing on an opportunity that College of Public Affairs Dean Roger Hartley presented. He encouraged her to apply for the Community Development Fellowship Program and she was more than thrilled to jump onto the opportunity. The fellowship program pairs students who have a strong interest in effecting positive change in urban areas with organizations that support Baltimore neighborhoods.
Denisha helped Pigtown Main Street with grant writing and other behind-the-scenes planning for its annual festival.
"I think community is really important and it definitely ties back into UB and the community and family I've been building here," she says.
The programs and activities that Denisha has been part of have helped her learn what it takes to be an advocate and build on the experiences she had as an undergraduate, when she was focused on gerontology.
"I haven't advocated at Capitol Hill by myself, but I want to do that in the future or with an organization. I want to work to get federal, state or local policies either revise or get new policies that help and not hinder the older adult population," she says. "Whatever level I end up on doesn't matter as long as I can be giving back, especially for older adults.