Striving for the Health of All – An interview with Emily Little, class of 2001


What was the first thing you ever wanted to be? Does any /all of that long ago dream fit into what you are doing now?  

When I was in the sixth grade, I wanted to be a pilot. In retrospect, I can’t remember if that was the inspiration for or as a result of my first research project. Nonetheless, I loved the process of picking a topic, going to the library and learning all that I could about how airplanes fly, and then figuring out how to demonstrate Bernoulli’s principle with a blow dryer between two ping-pong balls hanging on dental floss from either side of a chopstick. I was thrilled to demonstrate that the balls were pushed inward, which is counterintuitive but follows physical laws. Now, I am an epidemiologist. I work with teams of scientists and doctors to design and conduct studies about the health of populations and to communicate these scientific results… so yes, I guess my long ago dream fits exactly with what I am doing now but not in the most obvious way!

You chose an all women’s college after graduating SMWS; what were some of the reasons for this, and how was your experience there?

 Mills is a small liberal arts college in the San Francisco Bay Area that allowed me to declare a dance major as an incoming freshman while beginning to complete pre-medical requirements and to cross-register at Berkeley if I wanted to take classes that they didn’t offer. This seemed like the right balance for me, as both the prospect of declaring a science major and going to a larger university were intimidating. Mills made me feel comfortable without limiting my options. I can’t recall exactly how the fact that Mills is an all women’s college factored into my decision, but I remember some ambivalence. It also just felt like the right place when I visited in the spring of my high school senior year. My experience at Mills was challenging. It was more academically rigorous and socially awkward for me than I anticipated, but the perfect learning environment for me. Mills uncovered a few of my unconscious biases early on, especially with respect to gender, and prepared me to be a woman in science and in leadership roles in a way that I would not trade.

Creativity and the emphasis on its importance is such a large part of Waldorf education. How might you describe your creativity and your creative outlets and how they serve you today?  

My creativity is generative, but more inclined towards crafting the right situation than towards self-expression. I like planting seeds and watching them grow. I like building teams and facilitating their accomplishments. My garden and work are my greatest creative outlets today.

 If you were to look back at your life thus far and create a form drawing, what would it look like? (Can you draw and describe it?);)

Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure if it would be that symmetrical- probably not! 

Can you share one of your fondest memories of your time at SMWS? 

 I liked my class and always loved class trips. Perhaps senior trip is my fondest memory. I still take trips to see my classmates whenever possible – these have continued to be fond memories! 

Lastly, what words of wisdom might you share with our soon to graduate Class of 2016? 

The first thing that pops into my mind is our school yard song about making new friends and keeping the old ones, but I wouldn’t worry too much about who is silver and who is gold. Just make friends and keep them.