Not every path to success is a straight line

CPH alumna Laura Zdon's “non-traditional” college experience demonstrates that there is no one path to a career in public health.


  • Erinn Aulfinger
October 23, 2018
Laura Zdon '18
Laura Zdon '18

As she watched the hustle of the students bathed in the haze of the early morning light, every blink captured a snapshot of her future

Alumna Laura Zdon’s journey to the College of Public Health was “non-traditional,” but ultimately developed her determination and provided her with resources to design a career of her own.  

Zdon began her collegiate career at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., but took a break in her education to work for a restoration company in Boston. After a three-year hiatus, she went to a state college in Connecticut before transferring to Ohio State.  

“When I decided to come back to school, I knew I was going to be fighting an uphill battle to get into a program with the kind of credibility and esteem that Ohio State has,” Zdon said. “It's just about being persistent and working really hard.” 

Zdon said her "non-traditional” route through education and the professional field before coming to Ohio State gave her the opportunity to become more resilient and confident. 

“I reapplied and got waitlisted, and then I reapplied another time and finally got into Ohio State,” Zdon said. “'No' is just one person's opinion. It was a long, long college journey, but it was well worth it in the end.”  

The College of Public Health offered Zdon a field that combined her passion for science and helping others.  

“CPH opened doors for me that had previously been shut because I didn’t have a four-year college education. But the day-to-day was certainly not easy,” Zdon said. “I moved from Connecticut not knowing anyone. It was overwhelming, but also gave me the opportunity to start from scratch, explore opportunities and be a little less afraid. Once you drop out of college and have to come back, you are more willing to take risks.”  

Despite this sometimes-overwhelming transition, Zdon said the CPH community was an integral aspect of her success. She remembered several of her professors taking the time to remember her name and work with her on balancing her school work and internship at the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) her senior year.  

After graduating in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health with a specialization in public health sociology, Zdon accepted a full-time position from OhioMHAS with a focus on early childhood mental health. In this position, she implements the ‘Whole Child Matters’ initiative in collaboration with the Governor’s Council on Early Childhood to promote healthy social and emotional development and school readiness among children ages six and under, and focuses on workforce development for the department.  

Zdon said she plans to come back to CPH to pursue a dual master’s degree. 

“I sometimes get too far ahead of myself, so I do try to take everything day by day,” Zdon said. “When you relax, put one foot in front of another and aim to do good, the rest of it just falls together.”


About The Ohio State University College of Public Health

The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond.  The College’s divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy.   It is ranked 23rd among all colleges of public health in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report, and also includes the top 7-ranked MHA degree program.  The College provides leadership and expertise for Ohio and the world through its Center for Health Outcomes, Policy and Evaluation Studies (HOPES), Center for Public Health Practice, and the NCI-funded Center of Excellence in Regulatory Tobacco Science (CERTS).