July 14, 2020
Timothy Schwantes, MPH, MSW, an alumnus of both the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and the UNC School of Social Work, was named a member of the 2020–2022 class of the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations. The program, which is run by the Wildacres Leadership Initiative (WLI), selects 30 cross-sector leaders from throughout North Carolina every two years to participate in six four-day development seminars. This group of fellows from 19 counties will explore the use of stories and objects to question, examine and transform places.
Transforming places is something Schwantes takes seriously. He lives in northern Chatham County, North Carolina, and works with the nonprofit Healthy Places by Design. The organization provides consultation on increasing access to health through the built environment — the parts of the environment that are built by humans and serve as the setting for most human activity. He supports community collaboratives and partnerships that harness the power of spaces to improve public health.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in public policy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Schwantes worked to help patients who did not have insurance at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, which gave him an up-close view of the impact of health and public policy on people and communities. After taking electives in public health while pursuing a Master of Social Work in management and community practice, he decided to seek a Master of Public Health in health behavior, — this decision shaped his career.
“I’ve been working with county and regional health coalitions to make policy and infrastructure changes that improve community health,” said Schwantes. “Although COVID-19 brought an abrupt pause to some of the strategies we were working on, the trust, community relationships and coalitions this process has built are making our response to the pandemic more efficient.”
The William C. Friday Fellowship is named for North Carolina luminary Bill Friday, a former UNC system president whose commitment to the state was widely lauded. The fellowship seeks to foster a new generation in Friday’s mold by engaging leaders in different disciplines from across the state to collaborate on solving problems while embracing equity and justice. Human relations are at the core of this mission.
“Each of [the fellows] has made a choice to step into something not fully known and to be in relationship with those different than themselves,” said WLI Director Hunter Corn. “It is these choices that make communities stronger and more resilient.”
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