Skip to main content
Faculty/Staff Resources
What is Health and Human Development?

Diverse fields of study that share one
common goal: enriching the lives of others.

Search search
Mobile Search:

June 2016

For Zenaida Gonzalez, helping others has always been a natural part of her life.

As a teenager she volunteered for Philabundance, an organization that strives to end hunger in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, region. She also donated her time during marathons and other events.

In addition to her desire to help others, Gonzalez noticed that while others feared hospitals and doctors, she felt just the opposite. With frequent hospital visits for loved ones, in addition to her own routine check-ups, Gonzalez developed a level of comfort in medical settings.

“Growing up, I’ve always been really interested in health care, even though you usually go to the hospital for bad reasons, I kind of enjoyed it. I didn’t mind going to a doctor’s appointment. I’ve gotten really comfortable around health care people and settings,” she said.

That level of comfort served her well while her grandmother battled cancer. Gonzalez offered a calming, positive vibe in a setting where others were upset.

“I always went over with a smile, even though she was in a hospice state and bed ridden and I had never experienced that type of situation before,” Gonzalez said. “I handled that better than I thought I would. I was comfortable with it and I was able to be there for her.”

Her passion to help others and a growing interest in health care led Gonzalez to Penn State.

More than 4,500 Penn State students are enrolled in the College of Health and Human Development (HHD) studying a wide-array of fields, each committed to the concept of improving the quality of life for others. Gonzalez, who found a home in the Department of Health Policy and Administration (HPA), is one of those HHD students.

“A degree in health policy and administration makes everything possible,” she said. “I can do a lot, from administration to billing, or a little bit of everything. I consider myself adventurous, so to have that assortment with one degree is really important.”
In addition to classroom work, Gonzalez has gained experience through internships, including with University Health Services at Penn State where she served as an assistant to Shelley Haffner, the infection control nurse manager who studies mosquito bite viruses.

Gonzalez volunteers for the Pregnancy Resource Clinic and is a member of the affiliated student club. At the clinic she schedules appointments and helps with fundraising and event planning. She also completed the Women’s Leadership Initiative.

Following graduation, Gonzalez hopes to work with an underserved population in a health care setting.

“Working with the less fortunate is an eye opening experience. Seeing people’s situations and different backgrounds, I want to be more compassionate towards other people,” she said.

In addition to HPA, there are a variety of areas for students to study within HHD through the Departments of Biobehavioral Health, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Human Development and Family Studies, Kinesiology, Nutritional Sciences, Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, and the School of Hospitality Management. Learn more about HHD.