Skip to main content

PH Honored Graduate: Parker Carlquist’s Experiential Learning Expeditions

Growing up on a farm in Idaho, Carlquist gained an appreciation for hard work and facing the challenges of each season. This outlook helped him approach his rigorous course work with enthusiasm. His experiences at BYU in public health and political science helped him engage with people from all over the world and opened his eyes to all the different possibilities in his field.

During his time at BYU, Carlquist made the most of his education by engaging in several inspiring learning opportunities including joining BYU Model United Nations, working as a research assistant, and participating in a public health study abroad in Europe. He has loved getting to know people from many different backgrounds and seeing the world from new perspectives.

Carlquist near the railing on the 5th floor of the Life Sciences building. Light skin, blonde/brown hair, mustache, blue and white button up shirt. He smiles for a portrait style photo.
Photo by Tanner Frost

Experiential Learning

A significant part of Carlquist’s undergraduate career was working with Dr. Jeff Glenn on the BYU Campus Conversations project. Inspired by the lack of substantive dialogue during the COVID-19 pandemic, the goal of the project was to examine different ways to promote people being able to discuss divisive issues in a calm and productive way. They partnered with Living Room Conversations and hosted structured conversations on campus about various topics. Surveys showed that the conversations helped students be more open to other individuals and their opinions. After working as a facilitator, Carlquist obtained a CURA grant from the college to continue the project and helped write a published research article that was presented at a conference in Washington, D.C.

Two women at a small round table, facing eachother, both with hands on the table. Woman on the right with dark skin and hair, glasses and skirt and blue shirt. Woman on the left with white baggie shirt, maybe dskirt as well. with lighter skin and brownish hair. tall buildings are visible through the window at the back of the frame.
Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

One of Carlquist’s most treasured experiences was his time in Pittsburgh last summer as a member of the University of Pittsburgh’s Public Health Undergraduate Scholars Program, part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s John R. Lewis Scholars Program. While there, he interned for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, working on a project to understand how food banks and healthcare organizations could better work together. Carlquist had never thought much about nutrition and food insecurity before, and he feels like it has changed his perspective on the expansiveness of public health and its integral role in every aspect of people’s lives. “Sometimes the most simple things can have the most dramatic effects in people’s lives,” he reflects.

It’s easy to talk about something in a classroom, but it’s much more impactful to see it illustrated in the real world.

Working with the other interns in Pittsburgh was also one of the first times Carlquist recognized true Christlike love expressed. He was astounded at “the ability of those individuals to truly love you, regardless of who you were, where you were from, or what you were doing with your life.”

At BYU, Carlquist has grown to know that God’s love is unconditional and more expansive than he had previously thought. Knowing this has helped him grow in confidence and increase his love and understanding for others who are different than him.

Capitol building, Washington DC. A shot looking up, with some clouds in the sky.
Photo by Kyle Mills on Unsplash

Carlquist also loved the opportunity he had to go with Professor Michael Barnes to Washington, D.C. to participate in advocacy on Capitol Hill. In D.C., Carlquist visited with a senator’s staff from Idaho about the importance of dedicating resources towards improving mental health for youth. As someone who has struggled with mental health himself, Carlquist was grateful he could be a voice for an issue he deeply cares about.

One piece of mental health advice Carlquist would give to his younger self and to others is to “stop setting artificial timelines.” Creating constraints like being married at a certain age or landing your dream job by a certain date are often more harmful than helpful. To combat these pressures, Carlquist suggests to be kind and true to yourself.

Carlquist is grateful for BYU’s emphasis on experiential learning. “It’s easy to talk about something in a classroom, but it’s much more impactful to see it illustrated in the real world,” he reflects.

Coming Together

Public Health was the perfect major for Carlquist because it merged his passions for science and politics. Additionally, it helped him see the big picture of issues which he has found invaluable as he pursues his hopes of one day influencing policy to help make the healthy choice the easy choice for all individuals. “I want to bring a public health perspective to everything I do in life,” he says.

Ultimately, public health encouraged Carlquist to look broadly and see opportunities to influence health in many spheres, leading him to participate in a U.S. Department of State internship last fall. After graduating, Carlquist currently plans on getting on-the-ground public health experience by joining the Peace Corps. He hopes the experiences he will have there will guide him as he decides the next steps for his career.

Threads of a tapestry lined up on a device. The colors blue, red, pink, and yellow are present.
Photo by Sergio Gonzalez on Unsplash

Carlquist hopes to make the world a better place through his work in public health and politics. Rather than seeing diversity and difference as a problem, he sees it as essential to real unification. “It’s about people coming together,” he explains, “but not [coming] together to be the same...but to be interwoven into a tapestry where each thread is a different color to create the big picture.”