College of Health and Human Performance

Alexandra Rodriguez, BSAPK ’19

A UF MPH student in the College of Public Health & Health Professions and Research Assistant for the Center for Arts in Medicine

Alexandra Rodriguez, BSAPK ’19

What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am leading a vaccine confidence project on the campus of the University of Florida. The project, "Work COVID Silly, Gators: A multi-mural, interdisciplinary project to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence amongst students at the University of Florida" was granted almost $8,000 in funding to place temporary murals around campus to promote vaccine confidence amongst UF students. During the Spring semester, the sites will also act as COVID-19 vaccination and education sites. Aside from my role as project lead, the team also includes mural curator Jenna Horner, muralists Cristi Lopez, Brittany Webber, Amy Lindroth as well as UF Physician Dr. Ashleigh Wright. The two mural structures are slated to stay up through the Spring 2022 semester and will have QR codes to guide students to a linktree comprised of an evaluation survey, CDC COVID Vaccine safety & efficacy, as well as a link to find local vaccination sites. Further, the murals, surveys, and focus groups were all curated with the Theory of Planned Behavior at the forefront to ensure the efficacy of this project.

Overall, the goals of the project include...

  • Increasing confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine by promoting discussion amongst peers
  • Improving the perceived social norm of COVID-19 vaccination amongst students at the University of Florida
  • Increasing the perceived availability of accurate information about the safety, effectiveness, and availability of COVID-19 vaccines
  • Increasing number of University of Florida students who intend to get vaccinated or are vaccinated for COVID-19

My work through the Center for Arts in Medicine's Interdisciplinary Lab is what inspired me to develop this project. This past summer, I had the opportunity to support Dr. Jill Sonke’s work on the several CDC field guides all focused on, “How to Engage the Arts to Build COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence." Concurrent to aiding with the field guides, I was able to see the impact of the collaboration between the CDC and LivingWalls ATL to promote COVID-19 vaccine confidence. These together both acted as the primary inspiration in my design for this project. Aside from that initial inspiration, considering the mural work in Downtown Gainesville by 352walls also acted as a pivotal point for me as I recognized mural projects have already acted as a successful ways to engage the Gainesville community.

What really excites me about this project is its anchoring within public health as both the murals and overall research plan were designed with the Theory of Planned Behavior at the forefront. Through both survey and focus group data, we hope to understand how these curated murals can affect the perceived social norms of COVID-19 vaccination on campus as well as how they can impact student discussion regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. As COVID-19 has remained prevalent to a point of exhaustion, this project offers a fresh and engaging medium to promote discussion around vaccination. Further, these murals offer retained engagement given their relative permanence in highly trafficked locations. 

What personal characteristics must a person have to succeed in a role like yours?
I have learned through my experience with research that when you are passionate about your work, the day-to-day challenges do not wear you down, but instead, they drive you to innovate and push what you had initially imagined to a greater scale.

Who do you look up to most in your profession?
In the field of Arts in Public Health, I feel beyond fortunate to get to work at UF with Dr. Jill Sonke, one of the leaders in the field. At UF, she acts as the Research Director in the Center for Arts in Medicine, and as such, she is the co-director of the EpiArts Lab (a National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab at UF) and the overall director for center's Interdisciplinary Lab. Getting to observe her work as a Senior Advisor to the CDC Vaccine Confidence and Demand Team on the COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Task Force as well as her expertise in the field of research has been an opportunity I have not taken for granted.

Why did you decide to come to UF and Health & Human Performance?
What drew me to study at HHP was not only its initiative to continuously strive for more, but also its strong sense of community. From orientation alone, I could sense the college's investment in its students, and becoming a student myself only reaffirmed those initial impressions.

Where do you go for inspiration?
For inspiration, I always look to my dad -- a creative and innovative problem solver. Growing up, my dad would always challenge me to think bigger and to never be limited by what is current practice. While a pioneer in business, and not research, all of his philosophies continue to translate. While my dad passed recently, his bold, creative mentality and relentless drive continue to inspire me daily.

What is one thing someone might not know about you?
During my undergraduate at UF, I minored in theatre!

What's next?
In the Fall, I will begin a PhD with research focused on the interdisciplinary field of Arts in Public Health. With that, I look forward to further engaging the field and contributing to its research!

[Profile added in 2022]

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