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School of Nursing & Health Studies Undergraduates Enjoy Capitol Applied Learning Labs Experience

October 5, 2021 – Karan Buddala (NHS’23), a health care management & policy major, and Mariah Sheppard (NHS’23), a nursing major, are among the undergraduates living in downtown Washington, DC, this semester through the university’s Capitol Applied Learning Labs (CALL).

“The CALL offers a whole new way for students to apply themselves in the world as they develop their authentic selves,” said Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, who noted participants “can experience the fullness of Washington, DC, engage with local communities, build professional networks, and explore the power of using their education for the common good.”

CALL, according to its website, “is Georgetown’s signature immersive innovation hub downtown,” where “professors use the city as their classroom” and students can “gain real world experience.” (Visit the CALL website.)

Mariah Sheppard and Karan Buddala pose in front of an interior window with the words "Educating the Whole Person" on it.
This semester, Mariah Sheppard (NHS’23), a nursing major, and Karan Buddala (NHS’23), a health care management & policy major, are two of the undergraduates at the CALL, an experience they have both valued very much.

‘A Better Advocate’

Sheppard said she has enjoyed CALL-related coursework in areas including health equity and policy, the Health Justice Alliance and CALL seminars, and social impact. 

“As a nursing major, I feel like all of my classes – along with clinical – this semester make me a better advocate for my future patients,” she said. “My Health Equity and Policy class fosters discussion around access to health. Instead of just talking about how access to health affects people, we talk about potential solutions to the problems as well.”

Additionally, she highlighted a Speaking Skills for Success class, which she has valued in terms of learning about “[conveying] any message efficiently.” Sheppard said, “I plan to use the skills that I learn in this class to weigh in on pending decisions and ongoing debates surrounding health and health care issues.” 

Further, the HJA seminar has allowed her to see “the significance of medical-legal partnerships and how this partnership can be used as a tool to promote health justice at the individual, community, and policy level.”

‘Push Me to Be Better’

Like Sheppard, Buddala is enjoying the range of courses at the CALL and the mentorship of faculty including Vicki Girard, law professor and HJA founding director, Dr. Deborah Perry, professor at the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, and Lisa Kessler, director of HJA operations. The alliance, a “medical-legal partnership,” unites expertise in health, law, and policy to promote health equity and address the determinants of health. (Visit the HJA website.)

“As people who are dedicated to bettering their community, their passion to adopt innovative methods to improve health equity is truly infectious,” he said, while noting his CALL student peers, including from the College and the School of Foreign Service, “each bring a unique perspective to the table and push me to be better every day.”

The experience with the alliance, Buddala added, has caused him to better understand “that health care providers, when thinking about health through an interdisciplinary lens, can play a critical role in achieving health justice.”

The junior, who is a CALL Community Fellow, said “living downtown has also been an amazing experience,” describing substantive experiential learning opportunities like visits to Capitol Hill to learn about politics, Dupont Circle to explore LGBTQ history, and U Street to engage with Black Broadway history.

A group of students and professors stand in front of an interior wall with greenery growing on it.
The undergraduates at the CALL along with their Health Justice Alliance faculty Professor Vicki Girard and Dr. Deborah Perry

‘Becoming Agents of Change’

Both students are incredibly enthusiastic about this experience of formation being offered by Georgetown.

“I love how it is molding me into someone who is passionate about health care and health care access for all,” Sheppard said. “I have enjoyed the immersive experience of the CALL because I have engaged with DC more than I ever had done being on campus. Lastly, it has allowed me to build long-lasting relationships with people outside of my immediate friend group to explore DC together.”

Buddala added, “The students are dedicated to becoming agents of change in the world, and I think that is what sets the CALL community apart. All of the students are people who are unafraid to take risks and go out of their comfort zone to become a more wholly educated person. As a university dedicated to educating the whole person, there is no better opportunity for Georgetown students to do so than the CALL.”

Editor’s Note: The program invites students who are interested in joining the Health Justice Alliance and the CALL in spring 2022 and fall 2022 to email for more information or to apply by visiting

By Bill Cessato

health equity
Racial Justice