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Rachel Wilbur is a doctoral student in anthropology. Her research interests lie in the impact of historical trauma and social determinants on the health of contemporary Native American and Alaska Native peoples. Her dissertation research seeks to elucidate and document the pathways through which a family history of Federal Indian Boarding School attendance may continue to impact the physical health and well-being of future generations. She is of Tolowa and Chetco descent through her mother.

Rachel Wilbur
Rachel Wilbur

What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?

I first attended UNC as a master’s student in public health. I was drawn to Carolina initially because of its reputation in the field and decided to go here after visiting. I found the campus community to be welcoming and loved the small-town feel of Chapel Hill.

Tell us about your research.

My research looks at the intergenerational impacts of historical trauma events on health for Native American and Alaska Native populations today. Historical trauma events in this context include genocide, forced relocation, and the removal of children from their families and communities to boarding schools.

While these events may have occurred in the past, there is evidence to show that they continue to impact the health of people today. My research seeks to identify pathways through which this may occur, as a means of interrupting transmission and addressing health disparities.

How have you built Community as a graduate student at Carolina?

The First Nations Graduate Circle (FNGC), the UNC Indigenous graduate students’ organization, has been integral to my success as a student at UNC. I wasn’t aware of any Native American graduate students during my master’s at UNC, and it wasn’t until the co-president of FNGC, Meredith McCoy, reached out during the first year of my Ph.D. that I was able to connect with a Native community on campus. Finding community allowed me to grow and thrive in ways that would have been impossible otherwise. I fully anticipate that the friendships that I have made over the past three-plus years to last a lifetime.

What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree? 

With my master’s and Ph.D. from Carolina, I hope to work in tribal public health doing community-driven health research contributing to evidence-based interventions.

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