2024 Press Releases All Stories

Three students, one amazing opportunity to serve the community

Katherine Naulaguari, Sulaiman Shaikh and Molly Farquharson

DANBURY, Connecticut — Three Western Connecticut State University seniors who have just completed their studies toward a Bachelor of Science in Public Health, Community Health spent the fall semester participating in the Connecticut Public Health Fellowship Program (CT PHFP), a collaboration between local health agencies, universities and the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Launched in 2023, the program aims to build interest in public health careers for eligible students while improving their core competencies and providing workforce readiness and networking opportunities with professionals in the field.

WCSU’s student participants in the fellowship program came from very different backgrounds, but their desire to serve the public is a common theme.

Molly Farquharson
Molly Farquharson

Molly Farquharson graduated from New Milford High School in 2020. When it was time to look at colleges, it was the middle of the pandemic so she “gravitated to WCSU because of the small class size and the price of courses since everything would be online anyway.” Initially a biology major with the goal of one day becoming a Physician Assistant, Farquharson decided to switch to a field where she felt she could see the difference she was making on health first-hand, and changed her major to Public Health. “At first, I was not sure what I wanted to do, but when I began taking courses, I knew I was meant for community health due to my love and passion for giving back to communities,” she said.

Farquharson will graduate with a B.S. in Public Health with a concentration in Community Health and a minor in Psychology with the recent completion of her coursework in December 2023. She said the highlight of her time at WCSU has been taking courses in the HPX department and involving herself in campus clubs and activities. “I loved the courses I took in the HPX department, especially the core classes where I developed my independent project. I also love that WCSU is a home away from home, quite literally 30 minutes from my hometown. I was able to get involved in various organizations such as Greek life and other clubs.”

Farquharson started the CT PHFP fellowship in mid-August. “Since the HPX Department requires us to complete a 450-hour internship, part of my fellowship consisted of my internship at Danbury Health and Human Services,” she explained. “The fellowship offers opportunities to third- or fourth-year undergraduate and graduate-level students pursuing degrees in relevant fields of public health. With the Yale School of Public Health, I engaged with practicing public health professionals throughout the state. The fellowship offered networking opportunities, professional development seminars, and more. During my time at the Danbury Department of Health and Human Services, I collaborated with community organizations to work on implementing flu vaccine clinics. I also conducted my own research toward vaccine hesitancy in the Danbury area, in relation to flu vaccination and routine vaccination. This required analyzing and interpreting epidemiological data. Some of my other responsibilities at the department were making educational content and researching valuable health promotion programs that the department can possibly do one day. I worked closely with my internship preceptor to understand what goes into grant writing and how to develop programs based on community need.”

Farquharson believes the experiences with the other public health fellows and the opportunities she had with the department will help her in the future. “Interning here has been a great way to get my foot in the door, and I look forward to what the future holds,” she said. After graduation, Farquharson will attend New York Medical College to pursue a Master’s in Public Health. “I also hope to work at a local community health center or health department to further expand my knowledge on community health and environmental health,” she added.


Katherine Naulaguari
Katherine Naulaguari

Katherine Naulaguari, who will graduate from WCSU with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health/Community Health upon completing her studies in December 2023, attended Danbury High School and is a First-Generation college student. “Before enrolling at WCSU, I earned an associate degree in general studies at Naugatuck Valley Community College,” she said. “Upon completing my degree, I was determined to continue my education, and that’s when I decided to apply to WCSU. I have my parents to thank for always encouraging me to push forward — I would not be where I am today without them.”

Naulaguari initially pursued a business management track, but said her journey at WCSU “took an exciting turn” when she had the opportunity to connect with an alumna from the university’s Health Promotion and Exercise Sciences Department. “Her vibrant descriptions of the program, the dedicated faculty, and her own enriching student experiences filled me with inspiration,” Naulaguari said. “As I progressed along my professional path, I began my journey as a front desk registrar for Connecticut Institute for Communities (CIFC) Health, a federally qualified health center. Over time, I transitioned into the role of a community outreach worker. This transformative experience ignited a deep passion for community service within me and illuminated the importance of community health. The realization of how public health can have an impact on people’s lives and the communities they live in ultimately motivated me to change my major to study public health.”

Like Farquharson, Naulaguari conducted her fellowship concurrently with her internship at the Danbury Department of Health and Human Resources. During the fellowship, Naulaguari said, “I was actively involved in several key initiatives. I collaborated with community organizations to establish relationships and assisted in coordinating flu vaccine clinics, contributing significantly to community health promotion. In addition, I conducted database research to support the development of a grant-worthy health promotion program. This work involved close collaboration with the Community Health educator and the department’s associate director to ensure its success. I also undertook the task of creating educational materials that addressed various community needs, covering topics such as product recalls, current events, and both communicable and non-communicable diseases. These materials played a pivotal role in raising awareness and encouraging better health practices within the community.”

Naulaguari said the experience was “a valuable steppingstone in my professional development, providing me with a deeper understanding of public health. What I find most appealing about public health is its versatility; it offers a wide range of career opportunities, whether it’s working within a local health department or for a community-based organization.” Asked about the most significant highlights of her time at WCSU, Naulaguari pointed to “my professional growth through engaging internships and the unwavering support I’ve received from the faculty throughout my academic journey.”

With the completion of her studies, Naulaguari is applying for full-time positions in the field of public health. “My goal is to contribute to the health care system in a fast-growing city like Danbury. Having worked as a community outreach worker, I witnessed the disparities in health accessibility. Language emerged as a significant barrier preventing individuals from accessing essential resources. It is this barrier that I am determined to break. I aspire to bring my bilingual skills to the forefront, facilitating effective communication and fostering an inclusive health care environment. Simultaneously, I am preparing my graduate school applications with the hope of commencing my graduate studies in the fall of 2024.”


Sulaiman Shaikh
Sulaiman Shaikh

Sulaiman Shaikh attended high school in Canada, and came to WCSU as a transfer student from Michigan. “I did not consider other universities, because WCSU had the exact program that I was interested in and passionate about,” he said. “I enrolled specifically because WCSU offered the B.S. in Public Health program. It was appealing to me because it gave me the opportunity to receive the education I needed in order to pursue my career choices in the public health field. It was also close to home!”

Shaikh said, “One of the highlights at WCSU was the interaction with the HPX/Public Health faculty and how everyone was so helpful in providing me with guidance and direction throughout. Along with academics, I also learned a lot about professionalism just through observation, because I knew it was something I would also need when it comes to interacting with others in a professional setting.

“The Yale Fellowship program began for me in Sept. and concluded in December,” Shaikh added. “It gave me the opportunity to learn about all the different elements that make up Public/Community Health. It also helped in providing practical skills, networking opportunities, and gave me a deeper understanding of the public health landscape, all of which, I’m sure, will contribute to my long-term professional success. The fellowship program has been wonderful and very enlightening!”

To learn more about the HPX program at WCSU, visit https://www.wcsu.edu/hpx/ or contact WCSU Communications and Marketing at pr@wcsu.edu.


Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.