Major: Health & Exercise Science
Minors: Health Policy and Administration; Psychology
Hometown: Charlotte, N.C.
Having attended Montessori schools as a child, Melanie Firestone says she learned at a young age that teachers have a great deal of knowledge to share in areas other than what they are expected to teach. The relationships she has had with faculty are one of the reasons she is glad she made the decision to come to Wake Forest. Firestone will be attending Columbia University in the fall to earn her master’s in public health in sociomedical sciences.
Did you have a mentor during your four years?
So many professors have helped shape my life that I cannot just choose one. Dr. Steve Giles in the communication department and Dr. Gary Miller in health and exercise science have been great inspirations to me. They have helped shape my philosophy of life and have been strong role models for how to be successful and happy. Economics professor Mike Lawlor also played a pivotal role. When I first came to college, I knew I was interested in helping people and healthcare but I didn’t know how to combine the two into a career. Dr. Lawlor, through the health policy and administration minor he created, helped prepare and guide me to a career in public health. He served as both a mentor and advocate in my undergraduate career and during my pursuit of graduate school.
What do you like best about being a health and exercise science major?
When I first came to Wake Forest, I planned to be a biology major. I switched to health and exercise science because it focused more on people. I truly enjoyed all of the classes and making the switch helped me narrow my interests. In my major, “Human Gross Anatomy” is a required course, with an accompanying lab. Working with cadavers is a rare but valuable opportunity for undergraduates.
Did you participate in an internship?
As a part of the health policy and administration minor, I interned with the Healthy Living Partnership to Prevent Diabetes at the Wake Forest School of Medicine. The internship served as a capstone to my undergraduate education. It allowed me to use my knowledge and research skills and gave me real-world experience in my field of interest — reinforcing that I am following the right path.
Favorite class outside of your major?
“Sickness and Health in American Society” was my favorite non-major course. I’m not normally interested in history, but this class combined history with my biggest interest, health. I looked forward to this class because the subject was so fascinating and the active discussion made it engaging. I had never thought about the history of medicine, but discovered a new interest and the importance of the history behind science.
Did you study abroad ?
I spent two summers in Nicaragua in programs that included a service component. The first focused on business and culture, while the second focused on communicating for health behavior change and looking at health on a global scale.
In fact, my most memorable class was a part of the Nicaragua Summer Service-Learning Study abroad. On the first day of class, we met at the professor’s house with our bikes and rode downtown to Krankie’s Coffee where they had a special farmer’s market day for us! It was so much fun to talk with everyone there about healthy food choices and the role of the built environment on health. The class’s non-traditional design matched its content and made it more interesting and meaningful.
Did you have time for volunteer work?
Apart from my two trips to Nicaragua, I also participated in two Volunteer Service Corps (VSC) trips to Russia. I was a participant the first year and led the trip the following year. We repaired classrooms in a Moscow orphanage and played with the children after our daily tasks were completed. It was truly an eye-opening and surreal experience to be in Russia. We didn’t need to speak Russian to interact with the children. We could rely on the aspects of human nature that are so universal to communicate and enjoy each other’s company.
How have you grown?
My four years at Wake have allowed me to become a better version of myself. Wake Forest has helped me become more confident, outgoing and generally more comfortable with myself and my place in the world.
What is your favorite memory?
My favorite memory has to be sophomore year when our #4 ranked basketball team beat #1 ranked Duke in the last seconds of a highly-energized, emotionally-charged game. Everyone rushed the court after the win, then came back to campus to roll the Quad. It was a proud day to be a Deac.
Most meaningful extracurricular activity?
For three years, I worked as a student athletic trainer for football. I worked three practices a week, home games, and even traveled with the team. Not only was this experience fun, but it also forced me to develop stronger time-management skills. It gave me valuable experience in first aid and injury treatment and prevention. It was also great to have the opportunity to be an important part of the team.
Would you share something surprising about yourself?
Mannequins really scare me. Whenever I go to the mall, my heart beats incredibly fast and I cannot stay in stores with particularly scary mannequins for too long.
What will you miss the most after graduation?
I will miss the kind atmosphere and open-door policy at Wake. I love the size of the school and how friendly everyone is when you pass each other on the Quad. Most of all, I will miss seeing the professors and staff members that have influenced my life.
— Office of Communications and External Relations
Published May 10, 2011