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A student who is earning her third master’s degree from Harrisburg University has landed a prominent position with the United Way of Pennsylvania.

Kemi Ekunkoya, who also holds two master’s degrees from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, was hired to manage a new partnership the United Way forged with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Ekunkoya will be the project manager of the PA 211 social determinant of health project. In the position, she will be involved in user experience research to determine the needs and pain points of a target audience.

We recently caught up with the go-getter to learn more about Ekunkoya’s background, her new position, and her educational journey to date.

Q:   When did you attend HU, and what did you major in?

A: After I graduated from HU with a master’s degree in Project Management in 2016, I enrolled in a master’s program in Healthcare Informatics and Analytics in 2019 and am currently enrolled in the Human-Centered Interaction Design program.  I am proud to have two master’s degrees from HU and am in the process of completing the third one. In total, I have four master’s degrees, including a master’s in public administration from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service in 2015.

Q: Tell me about your new position with United Way and what you will be doing for the nonprofit? How did this new role come about?

A: I will be working with United Way of Pennsylvania on the PA 211 Social Determinants of Health project as the social determinant of health project manager. As the project manager, I will be involved in the User Experience research to determine the needs and pain points of the target audience. This will inform the problem design for us to develop a service design that will meet the needs of the people.The service design will involve creating a robust system to identify the root cause of people’s problems, needs, and pain points. With a follow-up system, we can track if their needs are being met and provide more connections to other necessary services.

I expressed my interest in working on a health-related project with Dr. Tamara Peyton during the summer. Through her guidance and advice, I was able to pitch a human-centered project management plan to the United Way team. Having heard about the position, I applied, went through the interview process, and was hired.

Q: Where are you from originally, what is your age and why did you choose to attend HU? Where did you attend undergraduate school?

A: I am originally from Lagos, Nigeria, in Africa. After graduating from New York University in 2015, I worked as a project manager on a project developing training manuals for community health workers in Newark, N.J. I had some project management experience and attended the PMP workshop in preparation for the PMP certification. However, HU had a robust syllabus that taught project management through different frameworks and methodologies, hence my decision to enroll in the project management program to hone my skills as a project manager. HU education is very practical and allows you to apply real-life scenarios in all that we learn, giving not just the knowledge but the skills and experience to excel in any role. I graduated with my bachelor’s in Microbiology from the University of Lagos, Nigeria.

Q: How has HU helped you in landing this position and set you up for success in the future?

This position allows me to apply my past experiences, most especially all the knowledge and skills I have attained through my education. My project management education from HU gives me the skillset to develop a hybrid project management approach for United Way, allowing us to have waterfall for proper documentation and processes.

At the same time, the design and development of the design solution will be agile through iteration to allow for tests and improvement. Health informatics and analytics will help me analyze the data and also develop data governance for the data collected on this project. My MPA degree in Health policy and management allows me to develop policies and programs that can address the target audience’s needs. And my current HCID program will ensure the identification of the right problem, and the solutions proffered are human-centered, meeting the people’s needs.

Q: What are your future plans? 

A: My goal is to continue to build a diversified career in healthcare. I hope to work on a large-scale health equity project that addresses the disparity in quality and accessibility of care in the United States, ensuring that policies, programs, and initiatives are human-centered through a collaborative design perspective.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

A: I am incredibly grateful to all my professors, who have contributed immensely to my success through my education and constructive criticism. Most especially Dr. Tamara Peyton, who is passionate about her job as a professor and getting me this job, and I hope to continue making HU proud.


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