Five Questions for Beki Parham
Beki Parham is the new VISTA Leader for the CHC VISTA cohort. She is an alum of the University of Saskatchewan and served her most recent VISTA term in Alaska. She grew up in Winona and is happy to be back in her home state.
1) What about your college and/or grad school experience influenced where you are today?
I am here today because of a combination of school and service experiences. A physical geography class in undergrad sparked an interest in soil which lead to an MSc degree in soil science. I conducted research in greenhouses and in large-scale, long-term field studies. After focusing on large-scale agriculture, I realized that the personal rather than the scientific aspect was more meaningful to me. In other words, I like soil because it helps crops grow and those crops feed people. Transitioning to the public health arena was the natural next step. I also wanted to return to my home state, so here I am!
2) What do you wish you’d known or done while a student?
I wish I had been more patient. I tried to do things quickly, which often resulted in silly mistakes and in the case of lab work, costly mistakes. If I had just listened better, calmed down, and taken my time, school as a whole would have been a much smoother process. I also wish I had been kinder to myself about making rookie mistakes on tests. This is all part of the learning process and not something to be ashamed of.
3) What is the most exciting aspect of your service?
I am excited to serve with the VISTA cohort and learn about their projects. Part of my role is to help them get through their VISTA year, but I’m convinced I’m going to learn a lot from them as well.
4) What book should everybody read, and why?
Honestly, I read enough dry scientific papers in graduate school that I mostly read fluff in my free time. One book I re-read recently which greatly impacted me was “A String in the Harp” by Nancy Bond. It’s meant for young adults and covers everything from loneliness to grief to the importance of history. It’s also just a fantastically entertaining, vivid story.
5) Who or what is inspiring you these days?
Recently while traveling in Taiwan I was constantly amazed by the friendliness and helpfulness of the Taiwanese people. I spoke a few phrases in Chinese and they rarely spoke English, but whenever I was lost and confused there was always someone there who was ready to help me. They did this with no expectation of anything in return and were genuinely happy to welcome me to their culture. These experiences have inspired me to be more welcoming and helpful to visitors and locals alike.