Outgoing Graduate Student Association President Looks Back on Time at Drexel, Forward to Future in Global Health
People often ask Jerry John Nutor if he’s sure he doesn’t want to go on to be a politician, rather than a global health researcher, following his time here at Drexel University.
The graduating PhD nursing student and exiting president of Drexel’s Graduate Student Association (GSA) already speaks about his fellow graduate students as his constituents, and is working to make the world a better and healthier place through his research.
“All my life, from my high school to here, every level of my education I have been involved in leading students, helping bring change and advocating for students,” Nutor said while seated at the conference room table in the graduate student association office in the Main Building — a space he helped secure as GSA president. “I get uneasy if things are not going well with my colleagues and I feel like I can use my free time to do that and help people.”
Nutor made his way to Drexel after completing his master’s degree at University of California, Davis. He said he wanted to get involved with the GSA right away when he got to Drexel in order to further some of the great experiences, and negate some of the bad experiences, that he came across in order to make things better for students in the future. He was elected as the interim vice president of academic affairs almost immediately, and after serving a term in this office, he was elected president of the organization for two consecutive terms.
The biggest accomplishment Nutor claims is the founding of the Drexel Emerging Graduate Scholars Conference, a now annual event that he calls his “brain child.” The conference celebrated its second year in April, and is a student-run, University-wide event highlighting innovative, interdisciplinary graduate research.
Nutor said he brought the idea to both the Graduate College and the Office of Research after he noticed that several GSA-sponsored organizations were having small, siloed events on their own.
“From the beginning I must admit the Drexel staff were very skeptical. They said they had a research day before, and it was ended because there was a lack of participation,” Nutor recalled. “So we told them, ‘No.’ We kind of [gave them] some of the reasons why that failed. We said we wanted to make this student-led and for students.”
Much like he jumped right into the GSA, it also didn’t take Nutor long to find the Dornsife Global Development Scholars Programwhich allows students to develop innovative approaches to solve problems in sub-Saharan Africa. Nutor said the program helped him hone his doctoral thesis research: the impact of water, hygiene and sanitation on medication adherence intention among HIV positive women enrolled in Option B+ treatment regimen in Zambia. He conducted this research in Zambia while working with the international humanitarian organization World VisionInternational as a Dornsife Global Development Scholar, and also through promoting healthy lifestyles and habits to pregnant women, mothers and children.
“I think my global health passion increased a lot through this program,” Nutor said.
Shannon Marquez, PhD, vice provost in the Office of International Programs and professor of global health in the Dornsife School of Public Health, said Nutor is really the first to do research on this important issue. She added that the World Vision colleagues he is working with in Zambia are eager for him to present his findings to the country’s government to plan future HIV and sanitation interventions.
“It’s been a joy to have him in the program,” Marquez said of Nutor. “He has become a model for how students can combine experiential learning, global and civic engagement as well as working on advancing research.”
Not only did Marquez have an impact on Nutor’s time at Drexel — she’s also helped steer him toward his next academic opportunity at Princeton University, where Nutor has accepted a postdoctoral position in its Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs. Marquez was the one who sent Nutor the listing for the position.
“I thought it was an excellent opportunity, especially since it was a post-doc for him to hit the ground running teaching courses in global health as well as doing research,” she said.
Nutor is already doing plenty of teaching, writing and researching at Drexel. In fact, he credits his work with the GSA with helping him develop the time management skills it takes to do it all. He’s so productive, in fact, that people also often ask him whether or not he actually sleeps.
“I do sleep,” he says with a laugh in the GSA office. “I have four to five hours of sleep a night. No nap and no Saturday break. I’m in my office a lot on Drexel’s Center City Campus. I’m there a lot because I have to write, I have to do all these things, I have to respond to emails and everything. So I don’t sleep a lot but I like to have a quality sleep. What does that mean? I like my bed to be very comfortable and the temperature in the room to be very conducive for sleep.”
Nutor will continue sleeping a little, but doing a lot through the end of his time at Drexel and into his time at Princeton. He just completed his dissertation defense, and would like to thank his faculty mentor Jaime Slaughter-Acey, PhD, assistant professor in the College of Nursing & Health Professions, for her support throughout his time at Drexel. Nutor plans to continue the research he started in Zambia while at Princeton, maybe even expanding the project into his native Ghana. He has also developed the first Africa Interdisciplinary Health Conference (AfIHC) to bring health-related academics, researchers and students in Africa as well as research based in Africa together as a peer-reviewed forum to share ideas. The inaugural conference will take place in Accra, Ghana from Aug. 1–3, right before Nutor starts at Princeton in September.
His advice for Drexel graduate students before he departs?
“Take advantage of the awesome opportunities that we have at Drexel,” Nutor said. “Get involved in campus engagement, student engagement, leadership, teaching opportunities. Professors are very nice to talk to, very open. Staff are equally the same. I get a lot of support from staff here, seriously from every angle. … The world meets here. You need to go outside your comfort zone, make friends with everyone regardless of country of origin, field of study or whatever and make friends.”