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- Global Public Health Alumna Shines With Latino Nonprofit
When Stephanie Manieri ’17 was looking for graduate programs in public health, she quickly eliminated a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) from her list. She felt there would be too much repetition from her undergraduate courses in Dominican University of California’s Global Public Health (GPH) program.
“Dominican’s public health program is really comprehensive, and I feel like I walked away ready to be employed at any organization where I would need experience in program planning, evaluation, or public health knowledge in general,” she explains. “I realized that if I went to get an MPH, I would be relearning everything I learned at Dominican.”
Today, Stephanie is the Executive Director of Latino Service Providers, a nonprofit founded in 1989 in response to helping the Latinx community in Sonoma County obtain knowledge and access to resources. The organization, which now comprises more than 1,400 members, works to improve access to healthcare, mental health services, education, legal support, and other social services.
Stephanie joined as a Program Manager for a youth participatory research program, but rapidly moved up through the ranks over the years.
“It all started at Dominican,” she says. “I would not be where I am today if not for the education I got here, the internships I had while an undergraduate, and my professors who were so supportive.”
Stephanie first visited Dominican on the advice of one of her mom’s colleagues.
“The daughter of one of the doctors where my mom worked as a medical assistant was a student at Dominican,” she says. “When I visited campus, she was my tour guide.”
The tour went well, and Stephanie knew almost immediately that she had found her place.
“I was struck by how beautiful and how quiet it was on campus,” Stephanie recalls. “I knew that this was the type of environment that I needed to learn best. You pay for an education, so you need to make sure where you go is worth the cost. Dominican offered small class sizes, values, and good access to professors. It was worth the cost.”
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Stephanie enrolled as a biology major but turned to public health as a junior after completing an eye-opening internship in Santa Rosa.
“I realized that I do not want to work in a lab forever,” she says. “I also was not on the medical school/dental school track that a lot of my peers in biology were on, so I changed my major to public health and it was the best thing I have ever done!”
Not long after declaring the major, Stephanie came to realize that Dominican’s undergraduate public health program in the School of Health and Natural Sciences was a unique option.
“I was so lucky to have this program literally in my back yard. Not a lot of colleges offer an undergraduate degree in public health, and Dominican offers an outstanding program.
“The professors had really high expectations, and this was really good preparation for grad school and for my career. The small class size gave us great access to professors, and I learned so much while working on papers and projects that I often refer to them when I am making decisions.”
As a junior, Stephanie started working for the Sonoma County Rape Crisis Center, first as the Crisis Line Coordinator and in her senior year as a Bilingual Sexual Assault Advocate housed at the Family Justice Center of Sonoma County working with victims of crimes. Her bilingual and multicultural background were a huge asset.
This was the beginning of her career in nonprofits.
“I am bilingual and multicultural – my mom is from Mexico and my dad is from Venezuela. So, I was often assigned to bilingual cases, including working with children who could not speak English,” she says. “I gained a lot of experience working with diverse populations.”
The summer before her senior year Stephanie had traveled with Dr. Patti Culross, chair of the Global Public Health Department, and a group of Dominican nursing and Occupational Therapy students to conduct research in Mexico as Dominican Global Health Fellows. Their research, which examined osteoporosis risk factors among residents of two semi-rural communities in the Yucatan peninsula, was presented the following spring at the Congreso de Investigación en Salud Pública in Cuernavaca, Mexico which Stephanie attended as a representative of the research group.
Stephanie became interested in health policy after taking a class with Dr. Culross. This interest inspired her to apply for the MS program in Health Policy and Law at the University of California San Francisco.
“Policy was something I became really interested in at Dominican,” she says. “I chose UCSF because I also wanted to stay local. I figure that if you are going to change the world then why not start at home. This is the community that raised me and this is the community I want to invest my time in.”
Stephanie completed the intensive one-year program while also working for the Sonoma County Department of Public Health in their Health Policy, Planning, and Evaluation Division. She was also involved with a special project funded by FEMA – serving as a crisis counselor and helping residents impacted by natural disasters to access resources.
The work-school balancing act was, she recently told a class of undergraduate GPH students at Dominican, “one of the hardest things I have ever done.”
But all that hard work paid off.
And, because Stephanie is not one to shy away from hard work, Stephanie also is a member of the Santa Rosa City Schools Board. She was elected in 2018 and reelected in 2022.
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Stephanie’s public health background increased her desire to serve on the board when, in 2018, the Santa Rosa School District expanded its trustee areas and her community qualified – for the first time – to have an elected representative. The district is the largest in Sonoma County and one of the largest in Northern California, serving more than 16,000 staff and students.
“I come from an underserved community but did not realize that a lot of things we were talking about in public health actually applied to where I live. So, I took advantage of an important opportunity to jump in and to serve my community.
“It has always been one of my values to be of service, which is another reason why I love Dominican – I had opportunities to learn how to best serve my community.”
Among her accomplishments on the school board is advocating for all students to take A-G required courses. She also helped pass an ethnic studies graduation requirement for all high school graduates in the district and worked on policy to dismantle the school to prison pipeline by removing police officers from campuses.
“From my perspective, we had to do this for the sake of public health and to not continue causing harm for students of color.”
Stephanie remains a huge fan of Dominican. When two of her colleagues were looking for an MBA program, she recommended Dominican’s program.
“I’m pushing Dominican so much,” she says. “We need people of all skill sets in public health. Two of my colleagues are about to graduate from Dominican with an MBA, and both will be doing two very different things in our organization while working toward the same mission and vision.”