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Deborah Baron is a first-year PhD student in the Department of Health Behavior in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. In her free time, she likes to travel and spend time with her kids.

Deborah Baron

What’s the thing you love most about Chapel Hill?

The pace and the greenery. I’ve lived most of my life in hectic, urban jungle cities – LA, NYC, Johannesburg….so this is a nice change of scenery.

If you had any advice for someone thinking about pursuing a graduate degree, what would it be?

Find multiple mentors; seek them out in unlikely places; and use different mentors for different purposes. Some may have similar life experiences which will resonate with your journey; others will be professional connectors with totally different backgrounds but they can help you build bridges and help you jump through the hurdles. I’ve had mentors for many years, and one who changed my life over a single coffee chat. Don’t just reach out when you need something; rather keep them posted on life milestones and where you are in life. Stay open to whatever gift, hustle or resource (time is a precious one) that people offer you.

What is your dream career after you’ve completed your studies?

I’ve spent many years working in the trenches – running research studies, doing advocacy work and managing stakeholder engagement. I’d love to combine my passion, experience and skills to pay it forward in the classroom by teaching at a university level, and contribute to training the next generation  of global health practitioners. I’m also committed to conducting participatory research around HIV prevention that addresses the complexities of young women’s lives and ideally work with young women to develop interventions that can help improve their physical and mental health outcomes. So, in a word— a professor.

How will your Carolina degree help you make a difference in the world?

I’m taking an amazing Anthropology class, Decolonizing Methodologies, which is helping me realize that I do not have to choose between being an activist and a researcher. As an “activist researcher,” I plan to use everything I learn (and unlearn) here at UNC toward positive social change in all my work.


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