Two Graduating Rollins Students Awarded Heart of Emory

May 9, 2024
Heart of Emory award recipients

By Shelby Crosier

In mid-April, Emory Campus Life hosted the 2024 Student Organization & Achievement Recognition Awards, which recognize outstanding service from student leaders across campus. The highest honor of the night is the Heart of Emory award, an award given to three undergraduate and three graduate students who represent the best of Emory.

The Heart of Emory award recognizes student leaders who contribute to a flourishing community on campus and who create “a legacy through connection, creativity and, a commitment to social justice.” This year, two of the three graduate recipients were Rollins students: Cameron Goetgeluck, of the Gangarosa Department of Environmental Health; and Alanna Aboulafia, of the Department of Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences.

Cameron Goetgeluck

Goetgeluck’s longtime interest in biology and emergency management transformed into a passion for public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. While working in vaccine access and infection control projects, including at Super Bowl LV, he realized that he enjoyed population-based health and decided to pursue an MPH at Rollins.

“I came to Rollins to pursue my master's in environmental health and epidemiology,” he says. “That way I could see how infectious diseases can impact a whole population, but also specifically how the environment could come into play and how the animal and human interface impacts that.”

In addition to completing coursework and conducting research to track antimicrobial resistance using wastewater, Goetgeluck threw himself into a variety of student leadership positions. As one of two Gangarosa Department of Environmental Health representatives in the Rollins Student Government Association (RSGA), he dedicated himself to creating opportunities for students and faculty to connect outside of the classroom. He also served as co-president of the Student Outbreak Response Team for a year and a half, helping to establish partnerships with both local medical reserve corps units and the CDC that engage students in real-world outbreak response efforts.

Goetgeluck centered community engagement and social justice in everything he did at Rollins—both on campus and off. Receiving the Heart of Emory award has only cemented his commitment to these values.

“It’s nice to be recognized for having a voice and standing for what I believe in, but I also think it's good to recognize that the award does not mean everything,” he says. “There are so many students contributing around our campus and around Rollins to so many different activities, from social justice to various research projects. What this award means to me is that I will continue to stand on the values that the award says that it's for, and that includes social justice.”

Alanna Aboulafia

For as long as she can remember, Aboulafia has been involved in community and social justice work. According to her, this is a fundamental piece of her which guides everything she does.

“What community work looked like for me when I was really young was putting together hygiene kits and go bags for people who were experiencing homelessness,” she says. “When I was older, probably 9 or 10, my mom allowed me and my sister to go with her to distribute these bags. That really sparked my particular interest and passion in working with people who are experiencing homelessness.”

She continued to volunteer with people experiencing homelessness in Baltimore (where she is from) throughout her adolescence and young adulthood. It was her passion for working with this population that eventually led her to pursue her MPH at Rollins.

Aboulafia’s commitment to social justice continued to flourish during her time as a student. She served on RSGA as the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) co-chair, where she led efforts to increase DEI conversations, initiatives, and transparency at the school. This included organizing educational and awareness events, hosting tabling days to get student feedback, and creating a framework for RSGA members to be trained on how to have critical conversations about DEI. She also created the first RSGA DEI handbook, which she notes is to “ensure that all members within and outside of the Rollins community have access to information about the DEI committee such as how we operate, our current structure, and the overall purpose of the committee.”

Outside of her official role in RSGA, Aboulafia has consistently gone above and beyond to create a sense of community not just within Rollins, but across schools and colleges at Emory. It is important to her to reach out and form personal connections with people across the university and learn their stories. This also extends outside of Emory to the greater Atlanta community, where Aboulafia is a member of the local chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace.

To Aboulafia, this award is a perfect representation of the work she has dedicated her life to.

“It was an overwhelming honor to receive this award, and I felt an immense sense of gratitude to even be considered,” she says. “For me, it is meaningful and valuable to just do the work and have that work be recognized and appreciated by those around me and those who are impacted by it. It's another thing to be recognized on Emory's stage. It feels like this award is fitting for the person that I am, and not only the actions and the deliverables that I've done, but also who I am to my core.”