Health Studies instructor Alissa Leavitt makes lifelong learning her misison

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Alissa Leavitt with Yareli Cornejo Torres.

Leavitt returned to college later in life to earn advanced degrees and certifications.

Alissa Leavitt has dedicated over 12 years to educating future public health leaders through her role as an instructor with the Portland Community College Health Studies Program.

She also led the BUILD EXITO Program, which has completed its final year. BUILD EXITO focused on underrepresented students pursuing careers in biomedical, public health, and social science research. Leavitt especially finds fulfillment in connecting PCC students with opportunities in public health and facilitating collaborations with the Oregon Health Science University (OHSU) and Portland State University School of Public Health partnership.

Leavitt said that in higher education, PCC stands out due to its strong community-oriented approach, fostering student success through comprehensive support systems. Her choice to teach in public health stems from her passion for the field, cultivated through experiences with various institutions including OHSU, the National Cancer Institute, and the Oregon Health Authority. Public health, she emphasizes, is not just about treating diseases but proactively preventing them, involving interdisciplinary efforts to address health challenges.

In her role, Leavitt said the Health Studies Program offers lower division transfer courses from a public health perspective, encouraging critical thinking about health systems and strategies for well-being.

Inspiration From Teaching
Leavitt enjoys outdoor activities with her family, including camping, hiking, and mountain biking.

Leavitt enjoys outdoor activities with her family, including camping, hiking, and mountain biking.

Leavitt finds inspiration in her students, particularly alumni like Yareli Cornejo Torres, who is a 2018 graduate of the Health Studies Program. Leavitt said Cornejo Torres excelled in BUILD EXITO and went on to conduct impactful research on health disparities among Spanish-speaking women. Both share a personal journey as first-generation college students. However, Leavitt returned to college later in life, emphasizing the importance of perseverance and lifelong learning, having pursued advanced degrees and certifications while balancing family life.

“When I work with students, I enjoy sharing my journey as a first generation, returning college student, Leavitt said. “I didn’t have a very positive educational experience when I was younger and dropped out of high school.”

As a PSU graduate with both a master’s degree of Public Health in Health Policy and Management (2007) and a bachelor’s in Community Health Education (2005), Leavitt became a master certified health education specialist in 2008.

“I love to learn,” she added.

Continuing her education, Leavitt has recently completed certificates in Teaching Adult Learners and Learning Differences and Neurodiversity, reflecting her dedication to inclusive teaching practices. As a member of the PCC Committee for an Accessible College Culture, she advocates for a welcoming environment for neurodivergent individuals like herself, contributing to a more inclusive campus culture.

“We all play a role in promoting accessibility and inclusivity at PCC,” Leavitt said. “I aim to contribute by raising awareness about neurodiversity among students, faculty, and staff members at the college.”

Life Outside Of PCC

Outside of PCC, Leavitt enjoys outdoor activities with her family, including camping, hiking, and mountain biking.

“I reside in the Linnton neighborhood of Northwest Portland where I enjoy spending time with my husband and 13-year-old son, ” she said.

She also finds joy in studying Italian, experimenting with plant-based recipes, and training her rescue dogs. Hosting a high school exchange student from Italy for a second year has added to her diverse experiences, while she eagerly looks forward to upcoming summer camping trips and visiting family in Hawaii.

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About Misty Bouse

A Portland Community College public relations specialist, Misty Bouse has been working in college advancement for a decade. A graduate of University of Oregon, Misty has worked as a managing editor for BUILDERNews Magazine and as a contribu... more »